[Federal Register: December 13, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 239)]
[Page 70887-70888]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

California Aqueduct Operation and Maintenance Project in Kings 
and Kern County, San Joaquin Valley, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
that the California Department of Water Resources San Joaquin Field 
Division (Applicant) has applied for an incidental take permit pursuant 
to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). We are considering the issuance of a 30-year permit to 
the Applicant that would authorize take of 20 species incidental to the 
Applicant's proposed operation and maintenance activities on sections 
of the California Aqueduct and Coastal Branch Phase 1 canal, as well as 
seven pumping plants and two Operations and Maintenance centers within 
the San Joaquin Field Divisions jurisdiction in Kern and Kings County, 
California. These activities within the 11,816-acre project area would 
result in the loss of up to 360 acres of permanent habitat loss to 
covered species habitat and 935 acres of temporary impacts to covered 
species habitat.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application and 
an Environmental Assessment. The permit application includes the 
proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) and an accompanying 
Implementing Agreement. The Plan describes the proposed project and the 
measures that the Applicant would undertake to minimize and mitigate 
take of the covered species.

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before February 11, 

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Lori Rinek, Chief, 
Conservation Planning and Recovery Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, 
Sacramento, California 95825. You also may send comments by facsimile 
to (916) 414-6713.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Cross, Chief Endangered Species 
Division, or Lori Rinek, Chief, Conservation Planning and Recovery 
Division, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, at (916) 414-6600.


Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of these documents for review by contacting 
the individuals named above [see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT]. 
Documents also will be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office 


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. Take 
of federally listed fish and wildlife is defined under the Act to 
include the following activities: harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any 
such conduct. We may, under limited circumstances, issue permits to 
authorize incidental take (i.e., take that is incidental to, and not 
the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity). 
Regulations governing incidental take permits for endangered are found 
in 50 CFR 17.22.
    The Applicant is seeking a permit for take of five federally listed 
animal species: the endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis 
mutica), blunt nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila), giant kangaroo rat 
(Dipodomys ingens), Tipton kangaroo rat (dipodomys nitratoides 
nitratoides), and the Buena Vista Lake shrew (Sorex ornatus relictus). 
The proposed permit would also authorize future incidental take of six 
currently unlisted animal species should any of these species become 
listed under the Act during the life of the permit: western burrowing 
owl (Athene cunicularia hypugea), Swainson's hawk (buteo swainsoni), 
San Joaquin antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus nelsoni), short-nosed 
kangaroo rat (Dipodomys nitratoides brevinasus), white-tailed kite 
(Elanus leucurus) and western spadefoot (Spea hammondii). The following 
listed and unlisted plant species are also proposed to be included on 
the permit: the endangered Bakersfield cactus (Opuntia basilaris var. 
treleasei), and the unlisted lesser saltscale (Atriplex miniscula), 
recurved larkspur (Delphinium recurvatum), Lost Hills crownscale 
(atriplex vallicola), Kernmallow (Eremalche kernensis), San Joaquin 
woollythreads (Monolopia congdonii), oil neststraw (Stylocline 
citroleum), Bakersfield smallscale (Atriplex tularensis), Bakersfield 
cactus (opuntia basilaris var. treleasei) should any of these species 
become listed under the Act during the life of the permit. Take of 
listed plant species is not prohibited under the Act and cannot be 
authorized under a section 10 permit. However, plant species may be 
included on the permit in recognition of the conservation benefits 
provided for them under the Plan. These species would also receive ``No 
Surprises'' assurances under the Service's ``No Surprises'' regulation 
(63 FR 8859). Collectively, the 20 listed and unlisted species are 
referred to as the ``covered species'' in the Plan.
    The Applicant proposes to address potential impacts of the 
operation, maintenance, and use of the California Aqueduct right-of-way 
and pumping plants within the San Joaquin Field Division. The Plan 
would cover the following activities: (1) Operation and maintenance 
activities (maintenance of embankments, roads, drainage and drainage 
structures, fences, and buildings and grounds; dredging and spoils 
removal; installation, monitoring and maintenance of observation wells; 
maintenance of turnout facilities, utilities and recreational 
facilities; and minor new construction); and (2) establishment and 
management of conservation areas to compensate for impacts on covered 
species habitat. Project activities would result in 360 acres of 
permanent habitat loss to covered species habitat and 935 acres of 
temporary impacts to covered species habitat.
    The Applicant proposes to implement specific on-site measures to 
avoid and minimize take and associated adverse project impacts to 
covered species. Additionally, the Applicant proposes to mitigate for 
take of covered species by conserving approximately 567 acres of land 
located at three of their pumping plants within the Plan area.

[[Page 70888]]

    The Service's Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of five alternatives. The Proposed HCP Project Alternative 
consists of the issuance of the incidental take permit and 
implementation of the Plan and Implementing Agreement. With Alternative 
2 (Operation to Breakdown), maintenance would be deferred until an 
emergency condition resulted, rather than performed routinely or for 
minor damage. With Alternative 3 (Fenceline-to-fenceline Disturbance), 
the entire right-of-way along the canals would be cleared of 
vegetation. With Alternative 4 (Alternative Maintenance Procedures), 
various methods of road maintenance, rodent control, vegetation 
control, and erosion control that were previously considered and 
rejected would be selected and used to develop this alternative. With 
the No Action alternative, the HCP would not be implemented and the 
applicant would apply for permits each time take occurred.

Public Review

    We invite the public to review the Plan, Implementing Agreement and 
Environmental Assessment during a 60-day public comment period (see 
DATES). Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you may 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.
    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act and the 
regulations for implementing NEPA, as amended (40 CFR 1506.6). We will 
evaluate the application, associated documents, and comments submitted 
thereon to determine whether the application meets the requirements of 
NEPA regulations and section 10(a) of the Act. If we determine that 
those requirements are met, we will issue a permit to the Applicant for 
the incidental take of the covered species. We will make our final 
permit decision no sooner than 60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: December 7, 2007.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Regional Director, California and Nevada Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. E7-24135 Filed 12-12-07; 8:45 am]