[Federal Register: November 2, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 212)]
[Page 64552-64553]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

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

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of record of decision.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces the 
decision and availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement 
(Final CCP/EIS) for the Sweetwater Marsh and South San Diego Bay Units 
of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR or Refuge). A 
thorough analysis of the environmental, social, and economic 
considerations was completed and presented in the Final CCP/EIS. The 
Final CCP/EIS was released to the public and a Notice of Availability 
was published in the Federal Register on August 25, 2006. The ROD 
documents the Service's decision to adopt and implement Alternative C 
(Implement Habitat Enhancement and Restoration and Improve Existing 
Public Uses) for the Sweetwater Marsh Unit and Alternative D (Expand 
Habitat Management, Enhance Nesting Opportunities, Maximize Habitat 
Restoration, and Provide Additional Public Use Opportunities) for the 
South San Diego Bay Unit.

DATES: The ROD was signed by the Manager, California/Nevada Operations, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on September 29, 2006.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the ROD may be obtained 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. A copy of the Final CCP/EIS and associated 

Appendices is available at the following Web site address: http://sandiegorefuges.fws.gov

FOR FURTHER 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 San Diego Bay NWR, which consists of the 
Sweetwater Marsh and South San Diego Bay Units, 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 South San Diego Bay 
Unit also provides nesting habitat for a variety of colonial nesting 
    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 
species. 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 
    The Final CCP will provide guidance for how the refuge, its 
resources, and compatible public uses should be managed over the next 
15 years. Three alternatives for the Sweetwater Marsh Unit and four 
alternatives for the South San Diego Bay Unit, along with the 
consequences of implementing each alternative, were described in detail 
in the Draft and Final CCP/EIS. The Draft CCP/EIS was distributed for 
public review and comment on July 22, 2005 and comments were accepted 
through September 19, 2005. The Service received 38 written comment 
letters and four individuals presented verbal comments at a public 
meeting held on August 30, 2005. All substantive issues raised in these 
comments were addressed through changes incorporated into 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.
    The ROD for the San Diego Bay NWR Final CCP/EIS has been prepared 
by the Service in compliance with the National

[[Page 64553]]

Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended. It documents the 
decision of the Service, based on the information contained in the San 
Diego Bay NWR Final CCP/EIS and the entire Administrative Record. The 
Service adopted and plans to implement Alternative C (Implement Habitat 
Enhancement and Restoration and Improve Existing Public Uses) for the 
Sweetwater Marsh Unit and Alternative D (Expand Habitat Management, 
Enhance Nesting Opportunities, Maximize Habitat Restoration, and 
Provide Additional Public Use Opportunities) for the South San Diego 
Bay Unit. These alternatives have been identified by the Service as the 
alternatives that would best achieve refuge purposes and contribute 
toward the mission of the NWRS, consistent with sound principles of 
fish and wildlife science, conservation, legal mandates, and Service 
    The selected alternatives recognize the need to provide high 
quality habitat for the Refuge's federally listed species, while also 
maintaining, and in some cases enhancing, the habitats needed to 
support the overall biological diversity of the Refuge. The selected 
alternatives also include expanded opportunities for compatible public 
use including wildlife observation, environmental education, and 
interpretation; provisions to protect cultural resources; 
recommendations for addressing existing contaminant issues; and 
proposals for establishing partnerships to address issues such as water 
quality, the accumulation of discarded fishing line around the bay, and 
stewardship of Refuge resources.
    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 the former agricultural lands 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 
    The Service considered the environmental and relevant concerns 
presented by agencies, organizations, and individuals and believes that 
implementing Alternative C for the Sweetwater Marsh Unit and 
Alternative D for the South San Diego Bay Unit is the best way to 
achieve the vision and goals for the Refuge. The selected alternatives 
are also the most consistent with the purposes of the Refuge, the 
mission of the NWRS, the recovery actions proposed for those federally 
listed species that are supported by the Refuge, and the bird 
conservation recommendations relevant to this part of the Pacific 
Flyway. These alternatives recognize the need to restore habitat 
essential to the recovery of listed species, while also protecting 
those habitats and conditions that currently support a diverse and 
abundant array of migratory birds. The selected alternatives also 
balance the need to protect habitat with the need to provide the public 
with the opportunity to experience and enjoy the resources being 

    Dated: October 18, 2006.
Steve Thompson,
Manager, California/Nevada Operations, Sacramento, California.
 [FR Doc. E6-18373 Filed 11-1-06; 8:45 am]