[Federal Register: August 26, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 165)]
[Page 54819-54821]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement 
and Habitat Conservation Plan for the Natomas Basin, Sacramento County, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The City of Sacramento, Sutter County, and the Natomas Basin 
Conservancy (the ``applicants'') have applied to the Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) for 50-year incidental take permits for 22 covered 
species pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act). The applications address the potential for 
``take'' of covered species associated with various activities within 
the Natomas Basin, a 53,537-acre area in the

[[Page 54820]]

Sacramento region. These activities (the ``covered activities'') 
include 15,517 acres of planned land development, and development and 
management of mitigation lands. A conservation program to minimize and 
mitigate for the covered activities would be implemented as described 
in the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan), which would be 
jointly implemented by the applicants.
    The permit applications, available for public review, include the 
Plan which describes the proposed program and mitigation, and an 
accompanying Implementing Agreement (legal contract).
    The Service also announces the availability of a Draft 
Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIR/
EIS) that addresses the environmental effects associated with issuing 
the permits and implementing the Plan. The analysis provided in the 
Draft EIR/EIS is intended to accomplish the following: inform the 
public of the proposed action and alternatives; address public comments 
received during the scoping period; disclose the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative environmental effects of the proposed action and each of the 
alternatives; and indicate any irreversible commitment of resources 
that would result from implementation of the proposed action.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before October 22, 
    Public meetings are scheduled as follows:
    1. September 23, 2002, First Session: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Second 
Session: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sacramento, California;
    2. September 25, 2002, First Session: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Second 
Session: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Yuba City, California.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to the Field Supervisor, Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage 
Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825. Written comments may be sent 
by facsimile to (916) 414-6711.
    The public meetings will be held at the following locations:
    1. Sacramento--1231 I Street, First Floor;
    2. Yuba City--Whitaker Hall, 44 Second Street.

Conservation Planning Division, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES); telephone: (916) 414-6600.


Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing copies of the applications, Draft EIR/EIS, 
Plan, and Implementing Agreement should immediately contact the Service 
by telephone at (916) 414-6600 or by letter to the Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Copies of the Draft EIR/EIS, Plan, and 
Implementing Agreement also are available for public inspection, during 
regular business hours, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office; the 
City of Sacramento Planning and Building Department, 1231 I Street, 
Room 300, Sacramento, California; State Library, 914 Capitol Mall, 
Sacramento, California; Central Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento, 
California; South Natomas Library, 2901 Truxel Road, Sacramento, 
California; and Sutter County Library, 750 Forbes Avenue, Yuba City, 


    Written comments will be received at the public meetings. Written 
comments also may be received after the public meetings, until the 
close of the comment period [see DATES]. All comments received, 
including names and addresses, will become part of the official 
administrative record and may be made available to the public.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. Take is defined 
under the Act as 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). However, under limited circumstances, the 
Service may issue permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed 
animal species. ``Incidental take'' is defined by the Act as take that 
is incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out of an otherwise 
lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for threatened species 
and endangered species, respectively, are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 
    The applicants are seeking permits for take of the following 
federally listed species: the threatened giant garter snake (Thamnophis 
gigas), threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus 
californicus dimorphus), threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp 
(Branchinecta lynchi), endangered vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus 
packardi), threatened Colusa grass (Neostapfia colusana), endangered 
Sacramento Orcutt grass (Orcuttia viscida), and threatened slender 
Orcutt grass (Orcuttia tenuis). The proposed permits would also 
authorize future incidental take of the currently unlisted Swainson's 
hawk (Buteo swainsoni), Aleutian Canada goose (Branta canadensis 
leucopareia), bank swallow (Riparia riparia), tricolored blackbird 
(Agelaius tricolor), northwestern pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata 
marmorata), white-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi), loggerhead shrike 
(Lanius ludovicianus), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), California 
tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), western spadefoot toad 
(Scaphiopus hammondii), midvalley fairy shrimp (Branchinecta 
mesovallensis), Boggs Lake hedge-hyssop (Gratiaola heterosepala), 
legenere (Legenere limosa), delta tule pea (Lathyrus jepsonii ssp. 
jepsonii) and Sanford's arrowhead (Sagittaria sanfordii), should any of 
these species become listed under the Act during the life of the 
permit. Collectively, the 22 listed and unlisted species are referred 
to as the ``covered species'' in the Plan.
    The applicants propose to minimize and mitigate the effects to 
covered species associated with the covered activities by participating 
in the Plan. The purpose of this basin-wide conservation program is to 
promote biological conservation in conjunction with economic and urban 
development within the Natomas Basin. Through the payment of 
development fees, one-half acre of mitigation land would be established 
for every acre of land developed within the various permit areas (a 
total of 7,759) acres of mitigation land to be acquired based on 15,517 
acres of urban development). The mitigation land would be acquired and 
managed by the Natomas Basin Conservancy. In addition to the 
requirement to pay mitigation fees, the Plan also includes take 
avoidance and minimization measures.
    The Draft EIR/EIS considers four alternatives in addition to the 
Proposed Action and the No Action Alternative. Under the No Action 
Alternative, no section 10(a)(1)(B) permits would be issued for take of 
listed species associated with the covered activities; the applicants 
would address the potential for take of listed species on a case-by-
case basis. The Increased Mitigation Ratio Alternative would double the 
extent of required mitigation land relative to the Plan. The Habitat-
Based Mitigation Alternative would prescribe mitigation based on the 
value of habitat to be disturbed, rather than on a general ratio 
applied to all lands to be disturbed. The Reserve Zone Alternative 
would prioritize specific areas within the Natomas Basin for 
acquisition, in contrast to the general acquisition strategy described 
in the Plan. The Reduced Potential for Incidental Take Alternative 
would result in reduced urban development covered by the

[[Page 54821]]

permits, and would therefore reduce the potential for incidental take 
associated with urban development.
    In August 2001, (66 FR 43267), two water agencies, Reclamation 
District No. 1000 (RD 1000), and Natomas Central Mutual Water Company 
(Natomas Mutual), decided to join the City of Sacramento and Sutter 
County as applicants for permits and participated in drafting the Plan. 
At this time, RD 1000 and Natomas Mutual have chosen not to submit an 
application for an incidental take permit. They may decide to apply at 
a later time and commit to the terms of the Plan, and through issuance 
of a permit by the Service, join as full permittees at a future date. 
It should be noted that because of RD 1000 and Natomas Mutual's 
previous participation as potential applicants, and the possibility 
that they may decide to apply for a permit at some future date, the 
description of and analysis of the two water agencies as permittees has 
remained in both the Plan and the EIR/EIS. Should the water agencies 
apply for a permit in the future, then additional notification and 
documentation may be needed pursuant to the National Environmental 
Policy Act.
    The Service invites the public to comment on the Plan and Draft 
EIR/EIS during a 60-day public comment period. This notice is provided 
pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act and Service 
regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). The Service will evaluate the application, 
associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to prepare a Final 
EIR/EIS. A decision on the permit applications will be made no sooner 
than 30 days after the publication of the Final EIR/EIS.

    Dated: August 19, 2002.
Steve Thompson,
Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 02-21680 Filed 8-23-02; 8:45 am]