[Federal Register: February 17, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 33)]
[Page 8188-8190]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of scoping Meeting on Intent To Prepare a Habitat 
Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement in Anticipation of 
Receiving an Endangered Species Section 10(a)(1)(B) Permit Application 
to Incidentially Take Listed Species From the San Marcos and Comal 
Springs Ecosystems by the Edwards Aquifer Authority in Their Efforts to 
Manage Underground Water Withdrawals From the Southern Edwards Aquifer

AGENCY: Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service Office Complex, Austin, Texas.

ACTION: Notice of intent to conduct scoping meetings and prepare a 
Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and Environmental Impact Statement 


SUMMARY: This notice advised the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) intends to gather information

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necessary to prepare an EIS for an anticipated incidental take permit 
applications, including a required HCP by the Edwards Aquifer Authority 
(Authority) of San Antonio, Texas. The application is for the 
Authority's management of the water withdrawals from the Edwards 
Aquifer, which directly affects the flow of two south central Texas 
springs: Comal and San Marcos Springs. The Authority is requesting a 
Permit for seven endangered and one threatened species. The endangered 
species include the Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni), 
fountain darter (Etheostoma fonticola), San Marcos gambusia (Gambusia 
georgei), Texas wild-rice (Zizania texana), Comal Springs riffle beetle 
(Heterelmis comalensis), Comal Springs dyopid beetle (Stygoparnus 
comalensis), and Peck's cave amphipod (Stygobromus pecki). The 
threatened species is the San Marcos salamander (Eurycea nana). The 
Authority also plans to seek coverage for Cagle's map turtle (Graptemys 
caglei) not currently listed, but occurring in the Guadalupe River 
upstream and downstream of Comal Springs. Based on the requirements of 
the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Authority will prepare a HCP that 
includes measure to minimize and mitigate any taking of species that 
may occur incidental to the permitted withdrawal of groundwater from 
the Edwards Aquifer.
    This notice is provided as required by the ESA of 1973, as amended 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), (50 CFR 17.22) and National Environmental 
Policy Act (40 CFR 1501.7) regulations.

DATES: Written comments from all interested parties must be received on 
or before 20 March 2000. Public scoping meetings for receipt of 
comments will be held on 28 February in Uvalde, 29 February in San 
Antonio, and 1 March 2000 in San Marcos, Texas.

ADDRESSES: Comments and requests for information should be sent to the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ATTN: Mary Orms, 10711 Burnet Road, 
Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758; telephone (512) 490-0057; facsimile (512) 
490-0974. Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the same 
address. Questions regarding the HCP should be directed to Robert Hall, 
Edwards Aquifer Authority, 1615 N. St. Mary's St., P.O. 15830, San 
Antonio, TX 78212-9030.



    The Service is soliciting information and comments on the scope of 
issues to be addressed in the EIS. The National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) process is intended to help public officials make decisions 
that are based on understanding of environmental consequences, and take 
actions that protect, restore, and enhance the human environment. NEPA 
scoping procedures are intended to insure that information on the 
proposed action, alternatives and impacts are solicited from the public 
and that all information is available to public officials and citizens 
before planning decisions are made. Accurate scientific analysis, 
expert agency comments and public scrutiny are essential to 
implementing NEPA. NEPA documents concentrate on the issues that are 
significant to the action in question. The Service invites the public 
to submit information and comments either in writing or at any of the 
three scheduled meetings. The Uvalde meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on 
28 February 2000 at the Sgt. Willie DeLeon Civic Center Reading Room in 
Uvalde, Texas. The San Antonio meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on 29 
February 2000 in the Conference Room of the Edwards Aquifer Authority, 
1615 N. St. Mary's, San Antonio, Texas, The San Marcos meeting will be 
held at 7 p.m. on 1 March 2000 at the San Marcos Community Center in 
San Marcos, Texas. The service requests that comments be as specific as 
    Major environmental and species concerns in this scoping process 
include the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts that 
implementation of the proposal could have on endangered and threatened 
species, critical habitat and other environmental resources, and the 
quality of the human environment. Other relevant issues include effects 
of aquifer and water withdrawal levels on Comal and San Marcos spring 
flows, effects of various aquifer water use management options and 
alternative water supply options on the environments affected by those 
options, and effects on the downstream environment.
    The Service proposes to prepare an EIS to evaluate the impacts of 
alternatives associated with issuing an incidental take permit under 
section 10(a)1(B) of the ESA. The Authority, a political subdivision of 
the State of Texas, is charged with the duty to manage, conserve, 
preserve and protect the Edwards Aquifer and have indicated an interest 
in pursuing incidental take authorization.
    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits the taking of federally listed 
animal species, unless authorized under the provisions of section 7 or 
10 of the ESA. The term ``take'' under the ESA includes actions that 
may directly kill or injure listed species, actions that significantly 
disrupt normal behavioral patterns such as feeding and breeding, and 
actions that detrimentally modify habitat to the extent that is harms 
individuals of the species.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) allows the Service to permit taking of listed 
species provided that taking is incidental to an otherwise legal 
activity and that it will not jeopardize a listed species. A HCP must 
be submitted as part of the incidental take permit application by the 
    The San Marcos and Comal Springs Ecosystems are dependent upon 
adequate spring flow from the San Antonio Segment of the Edwards 
Aquifer to support, endangered species and critical habitat, as well as 
several species proposed for federal listing. The Edwards Aquifer is 
the sole source of water for over 1.5 million people who live over the 
aquifer. Given the growing water use anticipated in the southern 
Edwards Aquifer region, an overall management plan seems necessary to 
assure the sustained spring flow in the two systems.
    Decline of spring flow in the two systems will result in ``take'' 
of listed species and in an appreciable reduction of the value of 
critical habitat, and an appreciable reduction in the likelihood of 
survival and recovery of listed species. The Service has estimated 
minimum spring flow for the two systems necessary to avoid any of these 
    The Authority proposes to adopt a HCP consistent with objectives of 
the approved San Marcos and Comal Springs and Associated Aquatic 
Ecosystems (Revised) Recovery Plan for the spring associated 
ecosystems, with the Federal court ruling, and with Sections 9 and 10 
of the ESA. The Authority's intention in developing the HCP is to 
establish a comprehensive approach to protect federally listed species 
and their habitats as affected by groundwater withdrawals from the 
aquifer. Activities proposed for coverage under the Permit may include 
management and permitting of certain water withdrawals from the Edwards 
Aquifer within the jurisdiction of the EAA, and habitat conservation 
measures to mitigate impacts of changes in flows of Comal Springs in 
New Braunfels, Texas; San Marcos Springs in San Marcos, Texas; and/or 
the Guadalupe River.
    In addition to considering impacts on listed species and their 
habitat, the EIS must include information on impacts from the proposal 
and alternatives to the proposal on other components of the

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human environment. These other components include such things as air 
and water quality, cultural resources, other fish and wildlife species, 
social resources, and economic resources.
    The Service is gathering information necessary for the preparation 
of an EIS. Information such as the following topics that would assist 
the Service in assessing the impacts of the issuance of an incidental 
take permit under the provisions of an HCP is being sought: the 
hydrogeology of the Edwards Aquifer and the effects of aquifer levels 
on spring flows at Comal and San Marcos Springs as they relate to the 
habitat needs of federally listed species; potential water conservation 
measures and strategies to reduce the withdrawal demands on the Edwards 
Aquifer and their effects on spring flows; alternate water supplies and 
their potential effect on reducing Edwards Aquifer water withdrawals 
and maintaining spring flows; effects of aquifer level management and 
spring flow changes on the quality of the issues; or suggestions that 
would be relevant toward the Service's review and development of 

William Seawell,
Assistant Supervisor, Austin U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office 
Complex, Austin, Texas.
[FR Doc. 00-3790 Filed 2-16-00; 8:45 am]