[Federal Register: August 18, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 160)]
[Page 47824-47825]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan/Environmental Impact 
Statement for the Sweetwater Marsh and South San Diego Bay Units of the 
San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that a 
Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan/Environmental Impact Statement 
(Final CCP/EIS) for the Sweetwater Marsh and South San Diego Bay Units 
of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge is available for review. 
This Final CCP/EIS has been prepared pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and is designed to address the 
Service's obligation under the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge 
System Improvement Act of 1997. The Final CCP/EIS describes the 
Service's proposal for managing these Refuge Units over the next 15 

DATES: A Record of Decision may be signed no sooner than 30 days after 
the publication of this notice (40 CFR 1506.10(b)(2)).

ADDRESSES: A copy of the Final CCP/EIS, including Appendix P (Responses 
to Comments) is available on compact disk or in hard copy by writing 
to: Victoria Touchstone, Refuge Planner, San Diego National Wildlife 
Refuge Complex, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, CA 92011 or by e-
mailing Victoria_Touchstone@fws.gov. You may also access or download 
copies of the Final CCP/EIS and associated Appendices at the following 
Web site address: http://sandiegorefuges.fws.gov. Hard copies of the 

Final CCP/EIS are also available for viewing at the following 
     San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 6010 Hidden 
Valley Road, Carlsbad, CA;
     Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center, 301 Caspian Way, Imperial 
Beach, CA;
     Chula Vista Public Library, Civic Center Branch, 365 F 
Street, Chula Vista, CA and South Chula Vista Branch, 389 Orange 
Avenue, Chula Vista, CA;
     Coronado Public Library, 640 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA;
     Imperial Beach Library, 810 Imperial Beach Boulevard, 
Imperial Beach, CA;
     National City Library, 200 East 12th Street, National 
City, CA; and
     City of San Diego, Central Library, Government 
Publications, 820 E Street and the Otay Mesa Branch Library, 3003 
Coronado Avenue, San Diego, CA.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Victoria Touchstone, Refuge Planner, at 
the above street and e-mail address, or via telephone at (760) 431-9440 
extension 349, or by fax at (760) 930-0256.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge 
System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee et seq.) requires 
the Service to develop a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for each 
National Wildlife Refuge. The purpose for developing a CCP is to 
provide refuge managers with a 15-year strategy for achieving refuge 
purposes and contributing toward the mission of the National Wildlife 
Refuge System (Refuge System), consistent with sound principles of fish 
and wildlife science, conservation, legal mandates, and Service 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction for 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, the CCPs identify wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. The 
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended 
by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, 
requires the Service to review and update these CCPs at least every 15 
years. Revisions to the CCP will be prepared in accordance with the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321-4370d).
    The San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located approximately 
10 miles north of the United States-Mexico border in southwestern San 
Diego County, California. Collectively, the two Refuge Units encompass 
approximately 2,620 acres of land and water in and around the south end 
of San Diego Bay. The coastal wetlands protected within this Refuge 
annually provide essential foraging and resting habitat for tens of 
thousands of migratory shorebirds and wintering waterfowl traveling 
along the Pacific Flyway.
    The Sweetwater Marsh Unit was established as a National Wildlife 
Refuge in 1988. Encompassing approximately 316 acres, this Refuge was 
established to protect federally listed endangered and threatened

[[Page 47825]]

species. The coastal salt marsh and upland areas within the Sweetwater 
Marsh Unit support 6 federally listed species, including 3 listed birds 
that nest within the Unit, 1 State-listed endangered species, and 26 
species of birds identified by the Service as Birds of Conservation 
    The South San Diego Bay Unit was established in 1999 as a unit of 
the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge for the purpose of protecting, 
managing, and restoring habitats for federally listed endangered and 
threatened species and migratory birds. The Service currently manages 
approximately 2,300 acres of the 3,940 acres included within the Unit's 
approved acquisition boundary. The majority of this management area is 
leased to the Service by the California State Lands Commission. 
Included within this Unit is the largest remaining expanse of 
intertidal mudflats in San Diego Bay. This and other habitats within 
the Unit support 5 federally listed endangered and threatened species, 
1 State-listed endangered species, and 19 species of birds identified 
by the Service as Birds of Conservation Concern. Open water is the 
dominant habitat, followed by intertidal mudflats, disturbed uplands, 
salt marsh, and freshwater wetlands. The Unit includes an active 
commercial solar salt operation that is managed under a Special Use 
Permit. The salt pond levees provide important nesting habitat for a 
variety of colonial nesting seabirds, and the brine invertebrates 
present in some ponds provide foraging habitat for various migratory 
birds, including phalaropes and eared grebes.
    The proposed action is to adopt and implement a CCP that best 
achieves the purposes for which the Refuge was established, furthers 
its vision and goals, contributes to the mission of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System, addresses significant issues and applicable 
mandates, and is consistent with the principles of sound fish and 
wildlife management. Implementing the CCP will enable the Refuge to 
fulfill its role in the conservation and management of fish and 
wildlife resources within the Pacific Flyway, including the 
conservation of important coastal wetlands, and to provide refuge 
visitors with opportunities to enjoy the Refuge's resources through 
high-quality opportunities for wildlife observation, environmental 
education, and environmental interpretation. A Predator Management 
Plan, prepared pursuant to the Service's endangered species management 
responsibilities, is also included in the CCP/EIS as a step-down plan. 
The predator management plan, which benefits the Federally listed 
endangered California least tern and light-footed clapper rail and the 
threatened western snowy plover, has been developed as a comprehensive 
wildlife damage control program that addresses a range of management 
actions from vegetation control and nesting habitat enhancement to non-
lethal and lethal control of both mammalian and avian predators. Under 
this plan, the most effective, selective, and humane techniques 
available to deter or remove individual predators or species would be 
    This CCP will also satisfy a condition of the Public Agency Lease 
between the California State Lands Commission and the Service, 
requiring management and public access plans for the South San Diego 
Bay Unit, as well as fulfill the Service's obligation described in a 
Cooperative Agreement between the Service and the Unified Port of San 
Diego to prepare ``a holistic habitat restoration plan'' for a 1,035-
acre portion of the existing salt ponds within the South San Diego Bay 
    The Service analyzed various alternatives for future management of 
the Refuge, including three alternatives for the Sweetwater Marsh Unit 
and four alternatives for the South San Diego Bay Unit. Sweetwater 
Marsh Unit, Alternative C, and South San Diego Bay Unit, Alternative D, 
have been identified as the Service's preferred alternatives.
    Alternative C for the Sweetwater Marsh Unit would improve habitat 
quality and restore intertidal and upland habitats to support six 
Federally listed species, along with the Refuge's other plant and 
animal resources. The existing trail system on Gunpowder Point would be 
redesigned and new interpretive elements would be provided to better 
complement the existing environmental education programs supported by 
the Refuge.
    Alternative D for the South San Diego Bay Unit would enhance 
nesting opportunities in and around the salt ponds for the California 
least tern, western snowy plover, and various other colonial seabirds; 
restore to native coastal habitats up to 410 acres of previous 
agricultural land in the Otay River floodplain; restore 650 acres of 
commercial solar salt ponds to tidal influence to support intertidal 
mudflat and coastal salt marsh habitats; and manage the water and 
salinity levels in an additional 275 acres of salt ponds. Opportunities 
for wildlife observation, photography, and environmental interpretation 
would be expanded; a pedestrian pathway would be constructed along the 
southern end of the Refuge to improve wildlife observation 
opportunities for Refuge visitors; and the other public uses (i.e., 
fishing, environmental education, and boating) currently provided on 
the Refuge would be maintained.
    The following substantive changes were made between the Draft and 
Final CCP/EIS:
    1. We revised Appendix D (CCP Implementation) to clarify the 
phasing plan for restoration of the salt ponds under scenario 2 and to 
more clearly describe the step-down planning process for future 
restoration and enhancement proposals on the South San Diego Bay Unit.
    2. We expanded the biological resources information provided in 
Chapter 3, Affected Environment, to address comments received during 
public review.
    Public comments were requested, considered, and incorporated 
throughout the planning process. Public outreach included public 
meetings and workshops, planning update mailings, and Federal Register 
notices. Three previous notices were published in the Federal Register 
concerning the development of this CCP (65 FR 39172, June 23, 2000; 67 
FR 19583, April 22, 2002; 70 FR 42359, July 22, 2005). During the 
public review and comment period for the Draft CCP/EIS, which occurred 
from July 22 to September 19, 2005, the Service received 38 written 
comments and four verbal comments. All substantive issues raised in 
these comments have been addressed through changes incorporated in the 
Final CCP/EIS and/or through responses to the comments, which are 
included in Appendix P, Responses to Comments, of the Final CCP/EIS.

    Dated: August 11, 2006.
Ken McDermond,
Acting Manager, California/Nevada Operations, Sacramento, California.
 [FR Doc. E6-13556 Filed 8-17-06; 8:45 am]