[Federal Register: December 19, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 243)]
[Page 71937-71939]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, San Francisco Bay, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: final environmental impact statement/
environmental impact report.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), and the 
California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) announce that the final 
environmental impact statement/environmental impact report (EIS/EIR) 
for the South Bay Salt Pond (SBSP) Restoration Project is available for 
distribution. The final EIS/EIR, which we prepared in accordance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), describes the 
restoration plan (plan) for 15,100 acres (ac) (6,111 hectares (ha)) of 
former commercial salt ponds in south San Francisco Bay. The SBSP 
Restoration Project would use a combination of restored tidal marsh, 
managed ponds, flood control measures and public access features to 
meet the three goals of the plan: to restore wildlife habitat, to 
provide flood protection, and to provide wildlife-oriented public 
access. The ponds are located at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay 
National Wildlife Refuge and at the Eden Landing State Ecological 
    The FEIS/EIR includes program-level evaluation of the SBSP long-
term alternatives as well as project-level analysis of the first phase 
of restoration (the Phase 1 actions).
    We and the CDFG jointly have prepared the final EIS/EIR to analyze 
the impacts of the SBSP. The final EIS/EIR presents a limited 
evaluation of the potential impacts associated with the list of 
possible South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study (Shoreline Study) 
actions. In the draft EIS/EIR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) 
was identified as the co-lead agency for NEPA compliance. However, this 
caused confusion as to the exact nature of the relationship of the 
Shoreline Study to the EIS/EIR for the SPSP Restoration Project. To 
eliminate this confusion, the Corps is no longer a co-lead agency on 
the SBSP Restoration project EIS/EIR. The Corps will remain a 
cooperating agency because they will use the final EIS/EIR to issue 
Clean Water Act 404 permits for the SBSP Restoration Project. The Corps 
will separately complete the Shoreline Study. The Shoreline Study area

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includes the SBSP Restoration Project area as well as shoreline and 
floodplain areas in the counties of Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa 

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the Final EIS/EIR for the SBSP 
Restoration Project by writing to Mendel Stewart, Project Leader, San 
Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 9500 Thornton Avenue, Newark, 
CA 94560, or you may request one through the South Bay Salt Pond 
Restoration Project Web site, at http://www.southbayrestoration.org.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mendel Stewart, Project Leader, San 
Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex, at the above address; 
telephone (510) 792-4275, or John Krause, California Department of Fish 
and Game, Region 3 Headquarters, P.O. Box 47, Yountville, CA 94599; 
telephone (707) 944-5500.



    On March 16, 2003, the State of California and the Service acquired 
15,100 ac of commercial salt ponds from Cargill, in South San Francisco 
Bay. The purpose of the acquisition was to protect, restore and enhance 
the property for fish and wildlife, as well as to provide opportunities 
for wildlife-oriented recreation and education. Of the acquired lands, 
CDFG owns and manages the 5,500-ac Eden Landing pond complex and we own 
the 8,000-ac Alviso pond complex and the 1,600-ac Ravenswood pond 
    We planned the SBSP Restoration Project in close coordination with 
a related but separate project, the Shoreline Study. The 
Congressionally authorized Shoreline Study, which the Corps will 
conduct, will identify and recommend for Federal funding one or more 
projects for flood damage reduction, ecosystem restoration, and related 
purposes, such as public access. Planning for the Shoreline Study will 
be conducted through several stages referred to as Interim Feasibility 
Studies, and the Corps is currently developing alternatives for the 
first stage of the Shoreline Study (the Alviso Ponds and Santa Clara 
County Interim Feasibility Study) in partnership with the Study's non-
Federal sponsors, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the 
California Coastal Conservancy, and in cooperation with the Service. 
Potential Shoreline Study actions include flood protection 
improvements, ecosystem restoration, and recreation and public access 
features, which may overlap considerably with proposed SBSP Restoration 
Project actions.
    The Initial Stewardship Plan (ISP) is an interim plan now in 
operation to maintain and enhance the biological and physical 
conditions within the SBSP area in the interim period between the 
cessation of salt production and the implementation of the long-term 
restoration plan that will emerge from the SBSP Restoration Project 
planning process. Because the SBSP Restoration Project will be 
implemented in phases over time, some ponds may be managed under the 
ISP for many years. The ISP actions include construction and operation 
of water control structures to circulate bay waters through a series of 
pond clusters to maintain low salinity, provide wildlife habitat, and 
maintain at least the current level of flood protection. Three of the 
ponds' levees were breached to allow full tidal wetland restoration. 
Additionally, some ponds are managed as seasonal wetlands that are 
allowed to fill with rain water in the winter and dry through 
evaporation during the summer months, while other ponds are operated as 
high salinity ponds to provide habitat for wildlife requiring those 
conditions. Certain ponds are still being managed by Cargill, while the 
company reduces the salinity levels by moving the saltiest brines to 
its plant site in Newark, California.
    The actual long-term restoration of the salt ponds is the subject 
of the SBSP Restoration Project. Implementation of the long-term 
restoration plan is expected to be conducted in phases, with some 
phases extending beyond 20 years. The Final EIS/EIR is programmatic, 
covering the long-term plan for the entire SBSP planning area, and is 
project-specific for the Phase 1 projects that will be implemented in 
the near term.
    The Draft EIS/EIR was available for a 55-day public review and 
comment period, which we announced via several methods, including press 
releases and public notices, including in the Federal Register (69 FR 
64965, November 9, 2004). The Draft EIS/EIR identified and evaluated 
three programmatic alternatives for the SBSP Restoration Project: A No 
Action Alternative (Alternative A), a Managed Pond Emphasis Alternative 
(Alternative B), and a Tidal Emphasis Alternative (Alternative C).
    Under the No Action alternative (Alternative A), the expected 
scenario at Year 50 is evaluated as if no long-term restoration plan is 
implemented. CDFG and the Service would continue to operate and 
maintain the ponds in a manner similar to the ISP, although it is 
assumed that CDFG and the Service would not have the funding to 
maintain full ISP operations over the 50-year planning horizon. No new 
public access or recreational facilities are proposed under this 
    Under the Managed Pond Emphasis Alternative (50 percent tidal 
habitat: 50 percent managed ponds by area) (Alternative B), the 
expected scenario at Year 50 would contain approximately 7,500 ac of 
tidal habitat and 7,500 ac of managed pond habitat. Approximately 20 
percent of the managed ponds would be reconfigured to improve foraging, 
roosting, and nesting opportunities for shorebirds, waterfowl, and 
other waterbirds. In addition, Alternative B would provide a cohesive 
line of flood protection along the perimeter of the project area. This 
alternative would also provide public access and recreation features in 
the form of trails and viewing platforms, interpretive stations, 
waterfowl hunting, access to and interpretation of cultural resource 
features, opportunities for education and interpretation, non-motorized 
boat launching points, and associated staging and parking areas.
    Under the Tidal Emphasis Alternative (90 percent tidal habitat: 10 
percent managed ponds by area), the expected scenario at Year 50 would 
contain approximately 13,400 ac of tidal habitat and 1,600 ac of 
managed pond habitat. All managed ponds in Alternative C would be 
reconfigured to substantially enhance foraging, roosting, and nesting 
opportunities for shorebirds, waterfowl, and other waterbirds. Flood 
protection under Alternative C would be similar to Alternative B, with 
the exception that more of the existing slough levees would be 
abandoned in Alternative C. Alternative C would also provide public 
access and recreation features similar to those described for 
Alternative B. Alternative C is the preferred alternative.
    Alternatives B and C are ``bookends'' that represent possible 
outcomes ranging from a 50:50 tidal to managed pond scenario to a 90:10 
tidal to managed pond scenario. The optimal configuration of tidal 
habitat and managed ponds that achieves the SBSP objectives while 
avoiding significant impacts to environmental resources would fall 
somewhere between these bookends and would be guided by the Adaptive 
Management Plan, the cornerstone of the SBSP.
    The Draft EIS/EIR also addressed, at the project level, Phase 1 of 
the SBSP. The Phase 1 actions are common elements of the long-term 
Alternatives B and C. Phase 1 actions would include a range of habitat 
types and early experiments that will be used to inform the Adaptive 
Management Plan. These

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include creating tidal, muted tidal, and managed pond habitats, as well 
as a variety of public-access features.
    We incorporated comments we received during the review period on 
the draft EIS/EIR into our final EIS/EIR, as appropriate. Appendix O of 
the final EIS/EIR contains a list of the comments we received and our 
responses to comments.
    We will make a decision no sooner than 30 days after the 
publication of the final EIS/EIR. It is anticipated that a Record of 
Decision will be issued by the Service in the spring of 2008.
    We provide this notice under regulations for implementing NEPA (40 
CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: December 11, 2007.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Regional Director, Region 8.
[FR Doc. E7-24640 Filed 12-18-07; 8:45 am]