[Federal Register: July 14, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 135)]
[Page 40145-40147]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Report/
Environmental Impact Statement and Receipt of an Application for an 
Incidental Take Permit for the Orange County Southern Subregion Habitat 
Conservation Plan, Orange County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: The County of Orange, Rancho Mission Viejo, and Santa 
Margarita Water District (Applicants) have applied to the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service) for an incidental take permit pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). The Service is requesting public comment on the Draft Orange 
County Southern Subregion Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), Draft 
Implementing Agreement, and Draft Environmental Impact Report/
Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). The Applicants seek a permit 
to incidentally take 25 animal species and assurances for 7 plant 
species, including 25 unlisted species should any of them become listed 
under the Act during the term of the proposed 75-year permit. The 
permit is needed to authorize take of listed animal species (including 
harm and injury) for Covered Activities, including development and 
associated infrastructure in Rancho Mission Viejo, expansion of the 
Prima Deshecha Landfill, and the extension of La Pata Road in the 
approximately 132,000-acre Plan Area in southern Orange County, 
    A Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is the Federal 
portion of the Draft EIR/EIS, has been prepared jointly by the Service 
and the County of Orange to analyze the impacts of the HCP and is also 
available for public review. The analyses provided in the Draft EIR/EIS 
are intended to inform the public of the proposed action, alternatives, 
and associated impacts; address public comments received during the 
scoping period for the Draft EIR/EIS; 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 September 12, 

ADDRESSES: Comments should be sent to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 
Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, California 92011. You may also submit 
comments by facsimile to 760-918-0638.
    Information, comments, and/or questions related to the EIR and the 
California Environmental Quality Act should be submitted to Mr. Tim 
Neely at the County of Orange, 300 North Flower Street, Santa Ana, 
California 92702; telephone 714-834-2552; facsimile 714-834-2771.
    To get copies of the documents, see ``Availability of Documents'' 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen Goebel, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); 
telephone 760-431-9440.


Availability of Documents

    Documents available for public review include the permit 
applications, the Public Review Draft HCP and Appendixes A-E, the Map 
Book (bound separately), the accompanying Draft Implementing Agreement, 
and the Draft EIR/EIS.
    Individuals wishing copies of the documents should contact the 

[[Page 40146]]

by telephone at 760-431-9440, or by letter to the Carlsbad Fish and 
Wildlife Office. Copies of the HCP, Draft EIR/EIS, and Draft 
Implementing Agreement also are available for public review, by 
appointment, during regular business hours, at the Carlsbad Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Copies are also available for viewing 
in select local southern Orange County public libraries (listed below), 
the Orange County Planning Department, and at the following Web site: 

    1. Dana Point Library--Reference Desk, 33841 Niguel Road, Laguna 
Niguel, California 92629;
    2. Laguna Hills Library--Reference Desk, 25555 Alicia Parkway, 
Laguna Hills, California 92653;
    3. Laguna Niguel Library--Reference Desk, 30341 Crown Valley 
Parkway, Laguna Niguel, California 92677;
    4. Mission Viejo Library--Reference Desk, 100 Civic Center, Mission 
Viejo, California 92691;
    5. Rancho Santa Margarita Library--Reference Desk, 30902 La 
Promesa, Rancho Santa Margarita, California 92688;
    6. San Clemente Library--Reference Desk, 242 Avenida Del Mar, San 
Clemente, California 92672;
    7. San Juan Capistrano Library--Reference Desk, 31495 El Camino 
Real, San Juan Capistrano, California 92675; and
    8. Orange County Resources & Development Management Department.--
Tim Neely, 300 North Flower Street, Santa Ana, California 92702.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act and its implementing Federal regulations 
prohibit the ``take'' of fish and wildlife species federally listed as 
endangered or threatened. Take of federally listed fish or wildlife is 
defined under the Act to include to kill, harm, or harass. ``Harm'' 
includes significant habitat modification or degradation that actually 
kills or injures listed wildlife by significantly impairing essential 
behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 
CFR 17.3(c)). Under limited circumstances, the Service may issue 
permits to authorize incidental take; i.e., take that is incidental to, 
and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activity. Although take of 
plant species is not prohibited under the Act, and therefore cannot be 
authorized under an incidental take permit, plant species are proposed 
to be included on the permit in recognition of the conservation 
benefits provided to them under the HCP. All species included on an 
incidental take permit would receive assurances under the Service's, 
``No Surprises'' regulation [50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)].
    The Applicants seek an incidental take permit and assurances for 25 
animal species and assurances for 7 plant species. Collectively, the 32 
listed and unlisted species are referred to as ``Covered Species'' by 
the HCP, and include 7 plant species (1 threatened [Thread-leaved 
Brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia] and 6 unlisted [California Scrub Oak 
(Quercus berberidifolia), Chaparral Beargrass (Nolina cismontana), 
Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), Coulter's Saltbush (Atriplex 
coulteri), Many-stemmed Dudleya (Dudleya multicaulis), and Southern 
Tarplant (Centromadia parryi var. australis)]); 2 invertebrate species 
(both endangered [Riverside Fairy Shrimp (Streptocephalus woottoni) and 
San Diego Fairy Shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis)]); 2 fish species 
(unlisted [Arroyo Chub (Gila orcutti) and Partially-armored Threespine 
Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus microcephalus)]); 2 amphibian 
species (1 endangered [Arroyo Toad (Bufo californicus)] and 1 unlisted 
[Western Spadefoot Toad (Spea hammondii)]); 7 reptile species (unlisted 
[California Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans occidentalis), Coast Patch-
nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis virgultea), Northern Red-diamond 
Rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber ruber), Orange-throated Whiptail 
(Aspidoscelis hyperythra), Red Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum 
piceus), San Diego ``Coast'' Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum), and 
Southwestern Pond Turtle (Emys [=Clemmys] marmorata pallida)]); and 12 
bird species (2 endangered [Least Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) 
and Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus)], 1 
threatened [Coastal California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica 
californica)], and 9 unlisted [Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), 
Coastal Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus couesi), Cooper's 
Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), 
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus), Tricolored Blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), 
White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus), Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria 
virens), and Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)]). The permit would 
provide take authorization for animal species identified by the HCP as 
``Covered Species.'' Take authorized for listed covered animal species 
would be effective upon permit issuance. For currently unlisted covered 
animal species, take authorization would become effective concurrent 
with listing, should the species be listed under the Act during the 
permit term.
    The HCP is intended to protect and sustain viable populations of 
native plant and animal species and their habitats in perpetuity 
through the creation of a reserve system, while accommodating continued 
economic development and quality of life for residents of southern 
Orange County.
    The HCP plan area encompasses approximately 132,000 acres in 
southern Orange County and includes the County of Orange and Rancho 
Mission Viejo(RMV). It is one of two large, multiple-jurisdiction 
habitat planning efforts in Orange County, each of which constitutes a 
``subregional'' plan under the State of California's Natural Community 
Conservation Planning Act, as amended.
    As described in the Draft HCP and the Draft EIR/EIS, the proposed 
HCP would provide for the creation of a reserve system that protects 
and manages approximately 20,868 acres of habitat for the Covered 
Species, in addition to approximately 11,950 acres of existing County 
Wilderness Parkland, the 4,000-acre Audubon Starr Ranch, and 
approximately 7,000 acres of existing conservation elsewhere in the 
Southern Subregion of Orange County outside of the Cleveland National 
Forest. The HCP identifies the proposed reserve system that will be 
established as part of a Phased Dedication Program linked to phased 
development on RMV lands. When completed, the reserve system will 
include large habitat blocks for Covered Species, essential ecological 
processes, and biological corridors and linkages to provide for the 
conservation of the proposed Covered Species.
    The HCP includes measures to avoid and minimize incidental take of 
the Covered Species, emphasizing project design modifications to 
protect both habitats and covered species. A monitoring and reporting 
plan would gauge the Plan's success based on achievement of biological 
goals and objectives and would ensure that conservation keeps pace with 
development. The HCP also includes a management program, including 
adaptive management, which allows for changes in the conservation 
program if the biological species objectives are not met or new 
information becomes available to improve the efficacy of the HCP's 
conservation strategy.
    Covered Activities would include development and all associated 
infrastructure on RMV, Santa Margarita Water District projects off of 
RMV but within the plan area, Prima Deshecha

[[Page 40147]]

Landfill expansion, the La Pata Road improvements and extension, and 
grazing on portions of the Habitat Reserve. The HCP makes a provision 
for the inclusion of lot owners in Coto de Caza.
    The Draft EIR/EIS analyzes 4 other alternatives in addition to the 
proposed HCP Preferred Project Alternative described above, including: 
An expanded conservation alternative; an alternative formulated by the 
County during the County zoning process; a ``no-take/no-streambed 
alteration'' alternative; and a no-project alternative.

Public Comments

    The Service and County of Orange invite the public to comment on 
the Draft HCP, Draft Implementing Agreement, and Draft EIR/EIS [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. This notice is provided pursuant to section 
10(a) of the 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 Environmental Impact Statement.

    Dated: July 6, 2006.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. E6-10917 Filed 7-13-06; 8:45 am]