[Federal Register: October 10, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 197)]
[Page 63147-63149]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Environmental Assessment and Application for an Incidental Take 
Permit for the Multiple Species Conservation Program, Chula Vista, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; notice of receipt.


SUMMARY: The City of Chula Vista, California, has applied to the Fish 
and Wildlife Service for an incidental take permit pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
The proposed 50 year permit would authorize incidental take of 13 
threatened or endangered animal species, one animal species proposed to 
be listed as threatened, and 26 currently unlisted animal species of 
concern in the event that these species become listed during the term 
of the permit. The permit would also ``cover'' 14 listed plant species, 
the take of which is not prohibited under federal law, in recognition 
of the conservation benefits provided to these species under the 
Subarea Plan. The permit application includes the Multiple Species 
Conservation Program (MSCP) Subarea Plan for the City of Chula Vista, 
an Implementing Agreement that serves as a legal agreement, Draft 
Implementing Ordinances, and additional supporting documents.
    Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, a draft 
Environmental Assessment for our proposed action of issuing a permit to 
the City of Chula Vista is also available for public review. This 
assessment was combined in one document with a draft Supplemental 
Environmental Impact Report to satisfy requirements of the California 
Environmental Quality Act. We request comments on this document and the 
permit application documents.

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before December 9, 

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 2730 Loker 
Avenue West, Carlsbad, California 92008. You may also submit comments 
by facsimile to (760) 431-9624.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Gjon Hazard, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address; telephone (760) 431-9440, extension 


Availability of Documents

    You may request copies of the documents by contacting the Carlsbad 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). You also may view the 
documents, by appointment, during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 
p.m.), Monday through Friday at this same address. Alternatively, you 
may view the documents at the following

[[Page 63148]]

locations within the City of Chula Vista: Chula Vista Planning 
Department, 276 Fourth Avenue; Chula Vista Main Library, 365 F Street; 
Eastlake Branch Library, 1120 Eastlake Parkway; and South Chula Vista 
Library, 389 Orange Avenue.


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. 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). ``Harm'' is defined by regulation to include significant 
habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or injures 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). Under certain 
circumstances, we may issue permits to authorize ``incidental'' take of 
listed animal species (defined by the Act as take that is incidental 
to, and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful 
activity). Regulations governing permits for threatened and endangered 
species are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 17.22, respectively.
    The City of Chula Vista is seeking a 50-year incidental take permit 
from us for 86 species on approximately 3,754 acres of habitat within 
the 33,045-acre Chula Vista Subarea (24,601 acres of which are already 
developed or non-habitat lands). The proposed permit would authorize 
incidental take of nine endangered and three threatened animal species: 
Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus woottoni), San Diego fairy 
shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis), Quino checkerspot butterfly 
(Euphydryas editha quino), arroyo toad (Bufo californicus), California 
brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus), light-footed 
clapper rail (Rallus longirostrus levipes), bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus), California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni), 
western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus), southwestern 
willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), least Bell's vireo 
(Vireo bellii pusillus), coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila 
californica californica), and California red-legged frog (Rana aurora 
draytoni). The California red-legged frog is not anticipated to occur 
in the Chula Vista Planning Area and take of the frog is not 
anticipated under the Chula Vista Subarea Plan, it has the potential to 
occur in other MSCP participating jurisdictions. While the red-legged 
frog is primarily addressed through those jurisdictions' approved 
Subarea Plans, it may also benefit from the Chula Vista Subarea Plan's 
contribution to the system of complementary and interlinked preserves 
created under the MSCP.
    The take prohibitions of the Act do not apply to listed plants, 
although Section 9 of the Act does prohibit certain acts, including the 
removal or destruction of listed plants in violation of State law. 
Although take of listed plants is not prohibited under the Act, we 
propose to name five endangered and three threatened plant species on 
the permit in recognition of the conservation measures and benefits 
that would be provided to them under the proposed Subarea Plan 
exclusively or under the proposed Subarea Plan in conjunction with the 
approved Subarea plans for other jurisdictions participating in the 
MSCP. These species are: salt marsh bird's-beak (Cordylanthus maritimus 
ssp. maritimus), San Diego button-celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. 
parishii), San Diego ambrosia (Ambrosia pumila), Otay Mesa mint 
(Pogogyne nudiuscula), California orcutt grass (Orcuttia californica), 
Otay tarplant (Deinandra conjugens), San Diego thornmint (Acanthomintha 
ilicifolia), and spreading navaretia (Navarretia fossalis). An 
additional four endangered plants and two threatened plants are not 
anticipated to be found in the Chula Vista Planning Area, but are 
included in the Subarea Plan and are named on the permits. These 
species are primarily conserved through other jurisdictions' MSCP 
Subarea Plans. The preserve created under the Chula Vista Subarea Plan, 
which is interlinked and designed to complement the reserve lands 
created through other approved subarea plans, will indirectly benefit 
these plant species. These species are: San Diego mesa mint (Pogogyne 
abramsii), Nevin's barberry (Berberis nevinii), coastal dune milk vetch 
(Astragalus tener var. titi), Del Mar manzanita (Arctostaphylos 
glandulosa ssp. crassifolia), thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea 
filifolia), and Encinitas baccharis (Baccharis vanessae). Additionally 
there are 59 unlisted species of concern that are included in the 
City's MSCP Subarea Plan, including 27 animal species (including one 
species already proposed to be listed as threatened) for which take 
authorization under the permit would become effective in the event that 
these animal species become listed during the term of the permit. Plant 
species covered by the City of Chula Vista's Plan would be identified 
on the permit in recognition of the conservation benefits provided for 
these species under the plan.
    The permit application from the City of Chula Vista includes a 
Subarea Plan that qualifies as both a Habitat Conservation Plan 
pursuant to Federal law and a Natural Community Conservation Plan 
pursuant to State law. On December 10, 1993, we issued a final special 
rule for the coastal California gnatcatcher pursuant to section 4(d) of 
the Act (58 FR 65088). The rule allows incidental take of the 
gnatcatcher if such take results from activities conducted under a plan 
prepared pursuant to the state of California's Natural Community 
Conservation Planning Act of 1991, its associated Process Guidelines, 
and the Southern California Coastal Sage Scrub Conservation Guidelines. 
Consistent with the Conservation Guidelines, while planning for natural 
communities is underway, the special rule allows interim loss of no 
more than five percent of the coastal sage scrub habitat in specified 
areas (subregions).
    To mitigate the impact of urban development over a 50-year period, 
the City of Chula Vista would require project-level impact avoidance 
and minimization measures, and would assemble a preserve of 
approximately 4,993 acres. The majority of the preserve (4,860 acres) 
consists of ``hard-lined'' areas designated for 100 percent 
conservation. Up to 133 acres would be conserved on lands designated as 
75 to 100 percent conservation areas. An additional 4,250 acres would 
be conserved outside of the City of Chula Vista's Subarea for impacts 
that would occur within the City's Subarea. Total conservation within 
the MSCP Subregional Preserve as a result of the City of Chula Vista's 
Subarea Plan is estimated to be 9,243 acres. The preserve within the 
City's Subarea would contain, at a minimum, the following habitats: 
Coastal sage scrub (2,418 acres), maritime succulent scrub (190 acres), 
chaparral (28 acres), grassland (896 acres), oak woodland (2 acres), 
eucalyptus woodland (18 acres), southern coastal salt marsh (202 
acres), freshwater/alkali marsh (14 acres), riparian forest (10 acres), 
riparian/tamarisk scrub (594 acres), open water/freshwater (24 acres), 
disturbed wetlands (15 acres), natural flood channel (146 acres), and 
other non-habitat lands (436 acres).
    Should we approve the City of Chula Vista's Subarea Plan and issue 
an incidental take permit to the City of Chula Vista, the five percent 
limit on interim loss of coastal sage scrub, imposed as part of the 
Natural Community Conservation Planning

[[Page 63149]]

Program and the special rule for the gnatcatcher, would be replaced by 
the conditions of the permit and the Implementation Agreement. Chula 
Vista would then exercise its land-use review and approval powers in 
accordance with the Permit, Subarea Plan, and Implementation Agreement 
to implement the City of Chula Vista's Subarea Plan and assemble its 
preserve. The City would amend its General Plan to include the MSCP 
Subarea Plan as a new element of the General Plan and would create 
overlay zones to implement the General Plan land use designations.
    Additionally, the City of Chula Vista would use its local 
regulatory authority to create or modify ordinances to implement the 
City's MSCP Subarea Plan. A new Habitat Loss and Incidental Take (HLIT) 
ordinance would be created to establish conservation and development 
standards for those development areas outside of Covered Projects 
(i.e., specific projects identified in the Subarea Plan that would be 
covered for incidental take pursuant to the proposed incidental take 
permit). The HLIT ordinance would also provide local regulations for 
narrow endemic species and wetlands. A new Grazing ordinance would 
codify the management goals of the Otay Ranch Range Management Plan. 
The City would also amend its existing Grading ordinance to provide 
regulations for clearing and grubbing of sensitive habitats and require 
compliance with the City's MSCP Subarea Plan prior to grading of 
sensitive habitat.
    Our Environmental Assessment considers the City of Chula Vista's 
MSCP Subarea Plan, as revised since the preparation of the Final 
Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), 
certified in 1997 for the MSCP Subregional Plan and associated 
implementing Subarea Plans, which included the City of Chula Vista's 
Subarea Plan. The Final EIR/EIS evaluated a range of alternatives based 
on the preserve contributions of the City of Chula Vista's Subarea Plan 
as well as the subarea plans of other participating jurisdictions. The 
Multiple Habitat Planning Area (MHPA) Alternative was ultimately 
adopted with the approval of the MSCP Subregional Plan. Because both 
the City of San Diego and County of San Diego have been implementing 
the MHPA Alternative through their respective Subarea Plans since 1997 
and 1998, respectively, we did not evaluate additional alternatives in 
the Environmental Assessment. Instead, the Environmental Assessment 
focuses on the substantive changes that have occurred to the City of 
Chula Vista's MSCP Subarea Plan. These include: (1) The addition of 
Quino checkerspot butterfly to the list of covered species as a result 
of the Subarea Plan's Quino checkerspot butterfly Recovery Component, 
(2) the expansion of the preserve as a result of adding lands not 
previously identified for conservation, and (3) implementation 
assurances resulting from the Subarea Plan's associated Implementing 
Agreement and implementing ordinances.
    The Environmental Assessment compares these changes to the No 
Action Alternative. Under the No Action Alternative, the Service would 
not approve the Chula Vista Subarea Plan and would not issue a permit 
to Chula Vista. Project proponents would either avoid take of listed 
animal species within the Chula Vista Subarea Plan boundary or would 
need to address take of listed animal species on a project-by-project 
basis. The latter could occur either through an individual incidental 
take permit, or if there is Federal involvement with the project (for 
example, a permit or funding), through the formal consultation process. 
Existing land use and environmental regulations would apply to all 
projects within the Chula Vista Subarea.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and regulations for implementing the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). All comments received, including 
names and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and 
may be made available to the public. We will evaluate the permit 
application, Environmental Assessment, associated documents, and 
comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets 
the requirements of section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act. If we 
determine that the requirements are met, we will issue an incidental 
take permit to the City of Chula Vista. We will make a decision on 
permit issuance no sooner than 60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: October 3, 2002.
Richard L. Hadley,
Acting Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 02-25727 Filed 10-9-02; 8:45 am]