[Federal Register: February 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 29)]
[Page 7050-7052]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for 
Issuance of a Permit To Incidentally Take Threatened and Endangered 
Species in Association With a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Metro 
Air Park Project in the Natomas Basin, Sacramento County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are considering 
approval of a Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) and issuance of an 
Endangered Species Act Incidental Take Permit under section 10(a)(1)(B) 
of the Endangered Species Act to the Metro Air Park Property Owners 
Association (Association), a non-profit mutual benefit corporation 
representing 138 individual property owners. The permit would authorize 
incidental take of listed species and unlisted species that may be 
listed in the future. Incidental taking of listed species could occur 
as a result of development of the Metro Air Park industrial park 
project and from rice farming activities.
    Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the Service 
intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement addressing our 
proposed action of approving the Plan and issuance of an incidental 
take permit. The Plan covers an area of 1,892 acres within the Metro 
Air Park Planning Area in the Natomas Basin, Sacramento County, 
California. The

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Plan addresses the federally threatened giant garter snake (Thamnophis 
gigas), Aleutian Canada goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia), valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), and 10 
currently unlisted species and their habitats. The Plan creates a 
process for the issuance of permits under the Federal Endangered 
Species Act, and the California Endangered Species Act.
    This notice describes the proposed action and possible 
alternatives, invites public participation in the scoping process for 
preparing the Environmental Impact Statement, solicits written 
comments, and identifies the Service's official to whom questions and 
comments concerning the proposed action and the Environmental Impact 
Statement may be directed.

DATES: Written comments are encouraged and should be received on or 
before March 13, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Information, comments, or questions related to preparation 
of the Environmental Impact Statement and the National Environmental 
Policy Act process should be submitted to Wayne White, Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 
95825. Written comments may also be sent by facsimile to telephone 
(916) 414-6711.

Biologist, or Vicki Campbell, Division Chief, at the Sacramento Fish 
and Wildlife Office, telephone (916) 414-6600. Persons wishing to 
obtain background material should contact Victoria Harris, Thomas Reid 
and Associates, 560 Waverley Street, Suite 201, P.O. Box 880, Palo 
Alto, California 94301, telephone (650) 327-0429.


Availability of Documents

    Documents will also be available for public inspection by 
appointment during normal business hours (7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 
Monday through Friday) at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office 
address provided above.


    Listed wildlife species are protected against ``take'' pursuant to 
section 9 of the Act. 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 U.S.C. 1538). The Service, 
however, may issue permits to take listed animal species if such taking 
is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. 
Regulations governing permits for endangered species are at 50 CFR 
17.22 and 17.32.
    In accordance with the requirements for obtaining an incidental 
take permit, the Association has developed a Plan. The goals of the 
Plan are to conserve listed and unlisted species and their habitat 
while accommodating otherwise lawful land uses.
    The Plan study area comprises 1,892 acres within the Natomas Basin 
in Sacramento County, California. Agriculture is the dominant land use 
in the Natomas Basin and on the Metro Air Park site. The predominant 
crops are rice, corn, sugar beets, grain, tomatoes, and pasture. 
Natural and uncultivated vegetation types are interspersed throughout 
the agricultural areas of the Natomas Basin. Natural areas are found 
primarily along irrigation canals, drainage ditches, pasture, and 
uncultivated fields. The borders of drainage canals are often 
associated with narrow strips of emergent vegetation and/or wooded 
riparian areas.
    Portions of the Natomas Basin that are within the jurisdiction of 
the City of Sacramento are included in the Natomas Basin Habitat 
Conservation Plan which was completed by the City of Sacramento in 
November, 1997. The Metro Air Park project is described in the Natomas 
Basin Habitat Conservation Plan, but because the Metro Air Park project 
is outside the City limits, the project cannot be covered by the City's 
incidental take permit. Therefore, the Association is seeking a 
separate incidental take permit for the Metro Air Park project. Take 
could occur as a result of urban development of the Metro Air Park 
industrial park project and from rice farming activities.
    Under the Plan, the Association proposes to minimize and mitigate 
the effects of urban development by participating in the basin-wide 
conservation program set up for the entire Natomas Basin which is 
described in the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. The focus of 
this basin-wide conservation program is on the preservation and 
enhancement of ecological communities that support species associated 
with wetland and upland habitats. Through the payment of development 
fees, one-half acre of mitigation land would be established for every 
acre of land developed within the Plan area. The mitigation land would 
be acquired and managed by the Natomas Basin Conservancy, a non-profit 
conservation organization established to implement the Natomas Basin 
Habitat Conservation Plan. Mitigation fee amounts and the mitigation 
strategy for the Plan would be subject to the same adjustments required 
under the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. The Plan also 
includes take avoidance and minimization measures that include the 
requirement for landowners to conduct pre-construction species surveys 
and to carry out minimization measures prior to site development.
    Although the consultant for the applicant, Thomas Reid and 
Associates, will prepare the draft Environmental Impact Statement, the 
Service will be responsible for its content and scope.
    The Environmental Impact Statement will consider the proposed 
action (issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) Endangered Species Act permit 
to the Association) and a reasonable range of alternatives. Potential 
alternatives may include different entities as the permittee (e.g., the 
County or individual land owners), and a No Action alternative. If the 
County were the permittee, then the Association and landowners would 
delay development of the Metro Air Park project until the County 
obtained a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit for areas under its jurisdiction 
in the Natomas Basin. If each individual land owner were the permittee 
then separate incidental take permits would need to be processed. The 
No Action alternative would involve the Service not issuing a section 
10(a)(1)(B) permit.
    Environmental review of the Plan will be conducted in accordance 
with the requirements of the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act, as 
amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), National Environmental Policy Act 
regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other appropriate regulations, 
and Service procedures for compliance with those regulations. This 
notice is being furnished in accordance with Section 1501.7 of the 
National Environmental Policy Act to obtain suggestions and information 
from other agencies and the public on the scope of issues to be 
addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement.
    Comments and participation in the scoping process are solicited. 
The Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan, upon which the Metro Air 
Park project is based, was subject to extensive public review through 
the City of Sacramento's California Environmental Quality Act process 
(Initial Study and Negative Declaration, 6/97), and the Federal review 
process (National Environmental Policy Act Environmental Assessment, 
December 1997). All of the issues associated with this project have 
been thoroughly addressed under the California Environmental Quality 
Act compliance process. The Service's Environmental

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Impact Statement will be examining the same issues that have been dealt 
with under the California Environmental Quality Act as well as any 
others that may arise.
    The primary purpose of the scoping process is to identify rather 
than to debate the significant issues related to the proposed action. 
Interested persons are encouraged to provide comments on the scope of 
issues and alternatives addressed in the draft Environmental Impact 

    Dated: February 7, 2000.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office.
[FR Doc. 00-3181 Filed 2-10-00; 8:45 am]