[Federal Register: May 30, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 104)]
[Page 37776-37777]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Fish and Wildlife Service

[I.D. 051602B]

Notice of Public Scoping and Preparation of an Environmental 
Impact Statement for a Middle Fork Nooksack River Habitat Conservation 

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration, Commerce; Fish and Wildlife Service, 

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, this notice 
advises the public that the Fish and Wildlife Service and National 
Marine Fisheries Service (Services) intend to gather information 
necessary to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (Statement). The 
Statement will examine the proposed approval of a Habitat Conservation 
Plan (Plan) and issuance of an incidental take permit (Permit) to take 
threatened species in accordance with the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act). The Permit applicant is the City of Bellingham 
(City). The application is related to water withdrawals from the Middle 
Fork Nooksack River and Lake Whatcom, and related activities located in 
Whatcom County, Washington. The applicant intends to request Permits 
for chinook salmon, bull trout, and Dolly varden, which are listed as 
threatened under the Act. The City also plans to seek coverage for coho 
salmon and eight other currently unlisted fish and wildlife species 
under specific provisions of the Permit, should these

[[Page 37777]]

species be listed in the future. In accordance with the Act, the City 
will prepare a Plan for, among other things, minimizing and mitigating 
any such take that could occur incidental to the proposed Permit 
    The Services are furnishing this notice to: advise other agencies 
and the public of our intentions; and to obtain suggestions and 
information on the scope of issues to include in the environmental 

DATES: Written comments from all interested parties must be received on 
or before July 1, 2002. A public scoping meeting will be held June 6, 
2002, 6:30-9 p.m.

ADDRESSES: The scoping meeting will be held at the City of Bellingham 
Public Works Building (Training Room Facility), 2221 Pacific Street, 
Bellingham, WA. Comments and requests for information should be sent to 
Mark Ostwald, Project Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 510 
Desmond Drive, S.E., Suite 102, Lacey, Washington 98503-1273, facsimile 
(360) 753-9518; or Tom Sibley, Project Manager, National Marine 
Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way, N.E., Seattle, Washington, 
98115, facsimile (206) 526-4746. Comments will not be accepted if 
submitted via e-mail or the Internet.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Ostwald, telephone (360) 753-
9564; or Tom Sibley, telephone (206) 526-4656.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act and 
Federal regulations prohibit the ``taking'' of a species listed as 
endangered or threatened. The term take is defined under the Act to 
mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. Harm is defined 
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to include significant habitat 
modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife 
by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including 
breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The National Marine 
Fisheries Service's definition of harm includes significant habitat 
modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures fish or 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, spawning, rearing, feeding, and sheltering (64 FR 
60727, November 8, 1999).
    The Services may issue permits, under limited circumstances; to 
take listed species incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise 
lawful activities. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations governing 
permits for endangered species are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.22; and, 
regulations governing permits for threatened species are promulgated in 
50 CFR 17.32. National Marine Fisheries Service regulations governing 
permits for threatened and endangered species are promulgated at 50 CFR 


    The City of Bellingham owns and operates a diversion dam on the 
Middle Fork Nooksack River, a water withdrawal facility on Lake 
Whatcom, and a water treatment facility near Lake Whatcom. These 
facilities are located in and adjacent to the City of Bellingham, which 
is located in Whatcom County, WA. Water is diverted from the Middle 
Fork Nooksack River at the City's diversion dam, transported via 
underground pipeline and an above ground canal to the upper end of Lake 
Whatcom where the water is stored. Withdrawal of water for treatment 
and ultimate municipal and industrial use occurs near the lower end of 
Lake Whatcom.
    Some of these water withdrawal and related activities have the 
potential to impact species subject to protection under section 9 of 
the Act, as described above. Section 10 of the Act contains provisions 
for the issuance of permits to non-federal landowners for the take of 
endangered and threatened species, provided the take is incidental to 
otherwise lawful activities, and will not appreciably reduce the 
likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild. In 
addition, the applicant must prepare and submit to the Services for 
approval, a Plan containing a strategy for minimizing and mitigating 
all take associated with the proposed activities to the maximum extent 
practicable. The applicant must also ensure that adequate funding for 
the Plan will be provided.
    The City of Bellingham has initiated discussions with the Services 
regarding the possibility of developing a Plan and securing a Permit 
for their water withdrawal from the Middle Fork Nooksack and Lake 
Whatcom and related activities. Activities proposed for coverage under 
the Permit include the following:
    (1) Diversion of water from the Middle Fork Nooksack River to Lake 
Whatcom, storage of water in Lake Whatcom, withdrawal of water from 
Lake Whatcom, and transport of water to the City of Bellingham's water 
treatment plant.
    (2) Maintenance and operation of the City of Bellingham's Middle 
Fork Diversion Dam, including dam repairs, screens (as appropriate), 
and a fish ladder (as appropriate).
    (3) Maintenance and operation of the City of Bellingham's Lake 
Whatcom withdrawal system from the water intake to, but not including, 
the water treatment plant; and regulation of discharge to Whatcom 
    (4) Maintenance of water supply capacity and operational 
flexibility necessary for efficient water supply operations that 
minimize and/or avoid operational disruptions.
    The Services will conduct an environmental review of the proposed 
Plan and prepare a Statement. The environmental review will analyze the 
proposal, as well as a full range of reasonable alternatives and the 
associated impacts of each. The Services are currently in the process 
of developing alternatives for analysis.
    Comments and suggestions are invited from all interested parties to 
ensure that the full range of alternatives related to this proposed 
action and all significant issues are identified. Comments or questions 
concerning this proposed action and the environmental review should be 
directed to the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries 
Service [see ADDRESSES]. All comments and materials received, including 
names and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and 
may be released to the public.
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), National 
Environmental Policy Act Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other 
appropriate Federal laws and regulations, and policies and procedures 
of the Services for compliance with those regulations.

    Dated: May 23, 2002.
Anne Badgley,
Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, Portland, 
    Dated: May 23, 2002.
Phil Williams,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 02-13558 Filed 5-29-02; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S, 4310-55-S