[Federal Register: April 25, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 78)]
[Page 21241-21242]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for Issuance of 
an Incidental Take Permit Amendment Associated With Expansion of the 
U.S. Borax Mine, Near Boron in Kern County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) advises the public that we 
intend to gather information necessary to prepare an Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed expansion and amendment of the 
U.S. Borax Inc. (U.S. Borax) Life of Mine Project Habitat Conservation 
Plan (HCP). The proposed amendment is being prepared under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as amended, (Act). 
The HCP and incidental take permit amendments are needed to authorize 
the incidental take of listed species as a result of implementing 
activities covered under the proposed HCP amendment.
    We provide this notice to: (1) Describe the proposed action and 
possible alternatives; (2) advise other Federal and State agencies, 
affected Tribes, and the public of our intent to prepare an EIS; (3) 
announce the initiation of a 30-day public scoping period; and (4) 
obtain suggestions and information on

[[Page 21242]]

the scope of issues and alternatives to be included in the EIS.

DATES: A public meeting will be held on: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 at 1-3 
p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Written comments should be received on or before May 
25, 2005.

ADDRESSES: The public meeting will be held at Boron Senior Citizens 
Center, 27177 Twenty Mule Team Road, Boron, CA 93516. Information, 
written comments, or questions related to the preparation of the EIS 
and the NEPA process should be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, 
Ventura, California 93003; fw1usborax@fws.gov; or fax (805) 644-3958.



Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations to attend and participate 
in the public meeting should contact Geri Black of the Ventura Fish and 
Wildlife Office at (805) 644-1766 as soon as possible. To allow 
sufficient time to process requests, please call no later than one week 
before the public meeting. Information regarding this proposed action 
is available in alternative formats upon request.


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of a fish or wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. Under 
the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the following 
activities are defined as take: to 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 section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, we 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 an 
otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for threatened 
and endangered species are at 50 CFR part 13 and 50 CFR part 17, 
    U.S. Borax currently holds a permit for the federally threatened 
desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) for incidental take caused by 
mining operations on 3,465 acres in San Bernardino County, California. 
The permit was issued on February 5, 1999, and expires on February 5, 
2049. Activities included in the HCP for the permitted project are: The 
creation of an overburden stockpile on 1,848 acres; expansion of the 
open mine pit by 22 acres; creation of 3 flood control catchment basins 
on 70 acres; construction of a desert tortoise berm on 9.8 miles; and 
conservation of 2,274 acres of desert tortoise habitat. Overburden 
consists of soil and rock material overlying the borate ore. Since the 
permit was issued, U.S. Borax has been in compliance with the terms and 
conditions outlined in its HCP, Implementing Agreement, and incidental 
take permit. In addition, no desert tortoises have been reported as 
    U.S. Borax intends to request a permit amendment for the incidental 
take of the desert tortoise on approximately 1,501 additional acres in 
Kern County. The proposed expansion would modify the currently 
permitted mining entitlements and the processing of sodium and calcium 
borates at the existing U.S. Borax facility in Boron, California. 
Activities proposed to be covered by the HCP amendment are: to increase 
the overburden stockpile cover by 1,333 acres; create a gangue 
stockpile on 129 acres (gangue is the insoluble material in the ore); 
create 4 additional flood control catchment basins on 39 acres; 
construct a desert tortoise exclusion barrier along 7.1 miles; and 
conserve 1,466 acres of desert tortoise habitat.

Environmental Impact Statement

    U.S. Borax and the Service have selected WZI, Inc. (WZI) to prepare 
the EIS. The document will be prepared in compliance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) (NEPA). WZI will 
prepare the EIS under the supervision of the Service, which will be 
responsible for the scope and content of the document.
    The EIS will consider the proposed action, the issuance of a 
section 10(a)(1)(B) permit amendment under the Act, no action (no 
permit amendment), and a reasonable range of alternatives. A detailed 
description of the impacts of the proposed action and each alternative 
will be included in the EIS. Several alternatives will be considered 
and analyzed, representing varying levels of conservation and impacts. 
The alternatives to be considered for analysis in the EIS may include: 
Variations in the scope of covered activities; variations in the 
location, amount, and type of conservation; variations in permit 
duration; or a combination of these elements.
    The EIS will also identify potentially significant direct, 
indirect, and cumulative impacts on biological resources, land use, air 
quality, water quality, water resources, socioeconomics, and other 
environmental issues that could occur with the implementation of the 
proposed actions and alternatives. For all potentially significant 
impacts, the EIS will identify avoidance, minimization, and mitigation 
measures to reduce these impacts, where feasible, to a level below 
    Review of the EIS will be conducted in accordance with the 
requirements of NEPA, Council on Environmental Quality Regulations (40 
CFR 1500-1508), the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 500 et 
seq.), other applicable regulations, and the Service's procedures for 
compliance with those regulations. This notice is being furnished in 
accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7 of NEPA to obtain suggestions and 
information from other agencies and the public on the scope of issues 
and alternatives to be addressed in the EIS. The primary purpose of the 
scoping process is to identify important issues and alternatives raised 
by the public related to the proposed action. Written comments from 
interested parties are welcome to ensure that the full range of issues 
related to the permit request is identified. Comments will only be 
accepted in written form. You may submit written comments by mail, e-
mail, or facsimile transmission (see ADDRESSES). Our practice is to 
make comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, 
available for public review during regular business hours. Individual 
respondents may request that we withhold their identity from the 
administrative record. We will honor such requests to the extent 
allowed by law. If you wish us to withhold your identity (e.g., 
individual name, home address, and home phone number), you must state 
this prominently at the beginning of your comments. We will make all 
submissions from organizations, agencies, or businesses, and from 
individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of 
such entities, available for public inspection in their entirety.

    Dated: April 19, 2005.
D. Kenneth McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 05-8174 Filed 4-22-05; 8:45 am]