[Federal Register: May 15, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 93)]
[Page 27331-27333]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the Bay 
Checkerspot Butterfly for the Metcalf-El Patio Reconductor and Metcalf-
Hicks/Vasona Reconductor, Santa Clara County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: receipt of application; request for 


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce receipt 
of an application from the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (applicant) 
for a 3-year incidental take permit for the federally threatened bay 
checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis) under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
The application addresses the potential for ``take'' of the butterfly 
incidental to proposed reconductoring and conservation management 
activities at the Metcalf-El Patio 115 kV and Metcalf-Hicks/Vasona 230 
kV transmission line site in Santa Clara County, California (plan 
area). We request comments on the applicant's application and low-
effect habitat conservation plan (plan), and on our preliminary 
determination that the Plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' habitat 
conservation plan eligible for a categorical exclusion under the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). We 
discuss our basis for this determination in our environmental action 
statement (EAS), which is also available for review.

DATES: We must receive any written comments on or before June 14, 2007.

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

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Tattersall, Chief, Conservation 
Planning Branch, or Cori Mustin, Senior Biologist, at the Sacramento 
Fish and Wildlife Office, at (916) 414-6600 (telephone).


Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of the permit application, plan, and EAS from 
the individuals named under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Documents 

[[Page 27332]]

also be available for public inspection, by appointment, during regular 
business hours at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see 

Public Availability of Comments

    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 can 
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.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing 
Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' of fish or wildlife species 
listed as endangered or threatened. ``Take'' is defined under the Act 
to include the following activities: To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, 
shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect listed animal species, or 
to attempt to engage in such conduct. However, under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, the Service may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take of listed species. ``Incidental take'' is defined by 
the Act as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying 
out an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing incidental take 
permits for endangered and threatened species, respectively, are in the 
Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.
    The applicant seeks a permit for take of one federally listed 
species, the threatened bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha 
bayensis). This species is referred to as the ``covered species'' in 
the plan. The proposed reconductoring activities would temporarily 
affect approximately 2.4 acres (ac) of habitat, which comprises 
approximately 0.0084 percent of the species' designated critical 
habitat. The applicant would receive ``No Surprises'' assurances for 
the covered species under our ``No Surprises'' regulations (50 CFR 
17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)).
    Only one species listed under the Act, the bay checkerspot 
butterfly, has the potential to occur on the project site and to be 
incidentally taken by the proposed project. Several other sensitive 
species are located in the vicinity of the plan area, including: (1) 
California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), federally listed 
as threatened; (2) California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), 
federally listed as threatened; (3) Santa Clara Valley dudleya (Dudleya 
setchellii), federally listed as endangered; and (4) Metcalf Canyon 
jewelflower (Streptanthus albidus albidus), federally listed as 
endangered. However, the Service determined that there would be no take 
of California tiger salamander or California red-legged frog. It was 
also determined that there would be no project-related effects on Santa 
Clara Valley dudleya or Metcalf Canyon jewelflower. Therefore, bay 
checkerspot butterfly is the only covered species in the plan.
    The applicant proposes to reconductor two Metcalf transmission 
lines within the plan area. As discussed in the plan, proposed covered 
activities include the following: (1) Constructing crossing structures, 
(2) pulling new conductors, (3) accessing the plan area, (4) staging in 
the plan area, (5) implementing fire prevention/suppression measures, 
and (6) implementing a conservation strategy for the bay checkerspot 
    The applicant proposes to avoid and minimize take and associated 
adverse project impacts to the covered species by fully implementing 
the plan. The applicant will minimize and mitigate the impacts of 
taking the bay checkerspot butterfly by implementing the following 
measures: (1) Conducting construction activities during summer and late 
fall; (2) ensuring that a qualified biologist is present to monitor and 
oversee technical issues relative to compliance with the mitigation and 
conservation measures; (3) restricting work activities to a 50-foot 
radius area from the center of most towers; (4) documenting serpentine 
(type of soil) habitat conditions with photographs before and after 
reconductoring activities; (5) developing and implementing, as 
appropriate, a re-seeding plan; (6) planning for rain that may occur 
prior to the completion of the project; (7) ensuring minimal 
disturbance caused by construction equipment; (8) ensuring that 
construction personnel receive worker awareness training; (9) ensuring 
that measures are taken to prevent accidental wildfires; and (10) 
halting project activities if bay checkerspot larvae or adults are 
found on site and coordinating with us regarding next steps. The 
applicant's plan also describes measures and funding sources that 
ensure that the elements of the plan would be implemented in a timely 
manner, actions to be taken if unforeseen events occur, and other 
required elements.
    Our proposed action consists of approving the applicant's plan and 
issuing an incidental take permit for the applicant's project. As 
required by the Act, the applicant's plan also considers alternatives 
to the take considered under the proposed action. The plan considers 
the environmental consequences of one alternative to the proposed 
action, the No Action alternative. The proposed action alternative 
consists of issuance of the incidental take permit for the applicant's 
proposed project, which includes the activities described above. The 
proposed action alternative would result in temporary impacts to 2.4 ac 
of serpentine habitat. To mitigate for temporary impacts, the applicant 
agrees to purchase and conserve at least 1.2 ac of bay checkerspot 
butterfly habitat at a ratio of 0.5 to 1, of acres permanently 
protected to acres temporarily affected.
    Under the No Action alternative, no permit would be issued, no 
construction associated with reconductoring activities would occur, and 
no take would occur. Under this alternative, the applicant would not be 
able to provide a safe and reliable power supply to its south San Jose 
service area, which is currently operating close to its maximum load 
rating. Additionally, an outage on one of the existing circuits could 
result in power curtailments or outages in the area, which would put 
the public's health, welfare, and safety at risk and could also result 
in substantial damage to the applicant's electrical system. No 
conservation areas would be protected under the No Action alternative.

National Environmental Policy Act

    As described in our EAS, we have made the preliminary determination 
that approval of the proposed plan and issuance of the permit would 
qualify as a categorical exclusion under NEPA, as provided by Federal 
regulations (40 CFR 1500, 5(k), 1507.3(b)(2), 1508.4) and the 
Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2 and 516 DM 8). Our EAS 
found that the proposed plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' habitat 
conservation plan, as defined by the Service's Habitat Conservation 
Planning Handbook (November 1996). Determination of low-effect habitat 
conservation plans is based on the following three criteria: (1) 
Implementation of the proposed plan would result in minor or negligible 
effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate species and their 
habitats; (2) implementation of the proposed plan would result in minor 
or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; and 
(3) impacts of the plan, considered together with the impacts of other 
past, present and reasonably foreseeable similarly situated projects, 
would not result, over time, in cumulative effects to environmental 
values or resources which would be

[[Page 27333]]

considered significant. Based upon the preliminary determinations in 
the EAS, we do not intend to prepare further NEPA documentation. We 
will consider public comments when making the final determination on 
whether to prepare an additional NEPA document on the proposed action.

Public Review

    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and the 
NEPA public-involvement regulations (40 CFR 1500.1(b), 1500.2(d), and 
1506.6). We will evaluate the permit application, including the plan, 
and comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application 
meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements 
are met, we will issue a permit to the Pacific Gas & Electric Company 
for incidental take of the bay checkerspot butterfly during Metcalf 
reconductoring work. We will make the final permit decision no sooner 
than 30 days after the date of this notice.

    Dated: May 9, 2007.
Susan K. Moore,
Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. E7-9277 Filed 5-14-07; 8:45 am]