[Federal Register: December 22, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 246)]
[Page 78292-78294]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Fish and Wildlife Service

RIN 0648-XL20

Habitat Conservation Plan for the City and County of San
Francisco, through its Public Utilities Commission, for the Operation
and Maintenance Activities of its Alameda Watershed, Alameda and Santa
Clara Counties, California

AGENCIES: Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Interior; National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement/
Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR); notice of public scoping


    Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the FWS
and NMFS (Services), are issuing this notice to advise the public of
our intent, in coordination with the San Francisco Planning Department,
to conduct public scoping necessary to gather information to prepare a
joint Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/
EIR). The EIS/EIR will analyze the environmental effects of the of the
Services' proposed issuance of an incidental take permit under the
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, (hereafter ESA or Act), for
a Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) within a portion of the Alameda
Creek watershed. The permit applicant is the City and County of San
Francisco through its Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). The SFPUC
intends to request a 30-year permit for five federally listed as
threatened or endangered species and 12 unlisted species that may
become listed during the term of the permit. The permit is needed to
authorize the incidental take of threatened and endangered species that
could occur as a result of the SFPUC's operations and maintenance
activities on SFPUC lands within the Alameda Creek watershed.
    The Services provide this notice to (1) describe the proposed Plan
and possible alternatives; (2) advise other Federal and State agencies,
affected Tribes, and the public of the intent to prepare an EIS/EIR;
(3) announce the initiation of a public scoping period; and (4) obtain
suggestions and information on the scope of issues and alternatives to
be included in the EIS/EIR. Pursuant to the California Environmental
Quality Act (CEQA), a separate Notice of Preparation for the EIS/EIR
will be posted by the San Francisco Planning Department, Major
Environmental Analysis (MEA) Division with the State Clearinghouse.

DATES: A public meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 13, 2009, from
6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Written comments should be received on or before
January 21, 2009.

ADDRESSES: The public meeting will be held at the Dublin Civic Center,
Regional Meeting Room, 100 Civic Plaza, Dublin, California.
    Information, written comments, or questions related to the
preparation of the EIS/EIR should be sent to: Sheila Larsen, Senior
Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800
Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825, facsimile (916) 414-
6713; Gary Stern, San

[[Page 78293]]

Francisco Bay Region Team Coordinator, National Marine Fisheries
Service, Santa Rosa Area Office, 777 Sonoma Avenue, Room 325, Santa
Rosa, CA 95404, facsimile (707) 578-3435; or via e-mail to

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sheila Larsen at (916) 414-6600; or
Gary Stern at (707) 575-6060.



    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take''
of wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. The Act defines
the term ``take'' as: to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound,
kill, trap, capture or collect listed animal species, or attempt to
engage in such conduct (16 USC 1532(19)). Harm includes significant
habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or injures
listed wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral
patterns, including breeding, feeding and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3(c)).
NMFS' definition of harm includes significant habitat modification or
degradation where it actually kills or injures fish or wildlife by
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including
breeding, feeding, spawning, migrating, rearing, and sheltering (64 FR
60727, November 8, 1999). Pursuant to Section 10(a) of the Act, the
Services may issue a permit 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. The Services' regulations governing permits for threatened
and endangered species, respectively, are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.32
and 50 CFR 17.22. NMFS regulations governing permits for threatened and
endangered species are promulgated in 50 CFR 222.22.
    Section 10(a) of the Act specifies requirements for the issuance of
Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) to non-Federal landowners for the take
of endangered and threatened species. Any proposed take must be
incidental to otherwise lawful activities, not appreciably reduce the
likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild, and
minimize and mitigate the impacts of such take to the maximum extent
practicable. In addition, an applicant must prepare a habitat
conservation plan describing the impact that will likely result from
such taking, the strategy for minimizing and mitigating the incidental
take, the funding available to implement such steps, alternatives to
such taking, and the reason such alternatives are not being
implemented. To obtain ITPs the applicant must prepare a habitat
conservation plan that meets the issuance criteria established by the
Services (50 CFR 17.22(b)(2) and 222.307). Should permits be issued,
the permits would include assurances under the Services' ``No
Surprises'' regulations [50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)].
    Take of listed plant species is not prohibited under the Act and
cannot be authorized under an ESA section 10 permit. The Services
propose to include plant species on the permit in recognition of the
conservation benefits provided for them under the Plan. Unlisted
covered species would receive assurances under the Services' ``No
Surprises'' regulations.
    Currently, 17 species (Covered Species) are proposed for coverage
under the Plan, including 5 federally listed species and 12 unlisted
species that may become listed during the term of the permits. The 5
federally listed species are the endangered callippe silverspot
butterfly (Speyeria callippe callippe) and the threatened California
red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii); Alameda whipsnake (Masticophis
lateralis euryxanthus); California tiger salamander (Ambystoma
californiense); and Central California Coast steelhead (Oncorhynchus
mykiss). The 12 unlisted species proposed for coverage are the foothill
yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii); western pond turtle (Clemmys
(=Actinemys) marmorata marmorata and C. (=Actinemys) m. pallida);
Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii townsendii); Pacific
lamprey (Lampetra tridentata); fall-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus
tshawytscha); tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor); western
burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea); Diablo helianthella
(Helianthella castanea); fragrant fritillary (Fritillaria liliacea);
most beautiful jewelflower (Streptanthus alba ssp. peramoenus); robust
monardella (Monardella villosa ssp. globosa); and round-leaved filaree
(Erodium macrophyllum). Species may be added or deleted during the
course of the proposed Plan development based on further analysis, new
information, agency consultation, and public comment.

Proposed Plan

    The southern Alameda Creek watershed (Alameda Watershed)
encompasses 175 square miles of rolling grassland and native oak
woodlands east of San Francisco Bay, California. The proposed Plan
study area includes approximately 36,800 acres of Alameda Watershed
lands owned by the SFPUC in Alameda and Santa Clara counties, plus
approximately 9,900 acres immediately adjacent to SFPUC lands. The
additional 9,900 acres include all privately owned, one-square mile
(640 acres) sections of land adjacent to SFPUC lands on Poverty Ridge
and Oak Ridge and all private lands on Apperson Ridge between the San
Antonio Reservoir and lands owned by the East Bay Regional Park
District. These privately owned lands are included in the study area
because the SFPUC may purchase land or conservation easements from
willing sellers under the proposed Plan for mitigation sites. The
permits associated with the proposed Plan would authorize the take of
listed species that may occur during ongoing operations and maintenance
activities on SFPUC lands in the Alameda Watershed.
    Activities covered by the proposed Plan (Covered Activities)
include watershed operations and maintenance activities such as road
maintenance and construction, culvert maintenance and replacement,
bridge replacement and construction, fence maintenance and
installation, vegetation management, riparian and pond habitat
enhancement, pond spillway repair, stream restoration, and recreation
activities, including elements of the Sunol Valley Landscape and
Recreation Plan, on land owned and managed by the SFPUC. Covered
Activities also include reservoir operations and maintenance activities
such as operations of the Calaveras and San Antonio reservoirs,
operations and maintenance of Alameda Creek Diversion Dam, reservoir
shoreline erosion protection measures (grading and log placement along
the shoreline) and restoration, boat-launch construction, vegetation
and debris management on dams, and maintenance of sludge ponds. Water
transmission and filtration-system operations and maintenance
activities such as the opening and closing of valves to test proper
functioning and pipeline maintenance will also be Covered Activities as
well as lease/permit and easement activities (i.e., operations and
management for livestock grazing, nurseries, golf courses, and
telecommunication sites).
    As part of the SFPUC's Water System Improvement Program (WSIP),
some of the existing facilities included in the proposed Plan's covered
activities may be modified, improved, or replaced. Proposed WSIP
projects within the Plan study area include the Calaveras Dam
Replacement Project, San Antonio Backup Pipeline, and improvements at
the Sunol Valley Water Treatment Plant.

[[Page 78294]]

The SFPUC proposes to address the effects of construction of WSIP
projects through separate regulatory review and permitting processes.
If an ITP is issued by the FWS and NMFS prior to the completion of
environmental review of any WSIP projects in the Alameda watershed, FWS
and NMFS will review the proposed WSIP project for consistency with the
Plan. If either FWS or NMFS determines that the future operations and
maintenance of the proposed WSIP project are not consistent with the
Plan, an amendment to the Plan will be required.
    Under the proposed Plan, the effects on covered species resulting
from the Covered Activities are expected to be minimized and mitigated
to the maximum extent practicable through implementation of a
conservation program that includes conservation actions and monitoring,
which will be fully described in the proposed Plan. This conservation
program will focus on providing for the long-term management of
biological communities in the Plan area that support Covered Species.
The conservation strategy will implement best management practices
throughout the watershed to minimize impacts from all SFPUC Covered
Activities. The conservation strategy will provide mitigation for both
temporary and ongoing impacts on Covered Species in the form of habitat
enhancement, restoration, and, if necessary, protection of additional

Environmental Impact Statement/Report

    The EIS/EIR will consider the proposed action, the issuance of
section 10(a)(1)(B) permits under the Act, and several alternatives,
representing varying levels of conservation, impacts from covered
activities, the list of covered species, or a combination of these
factors. Additionally, a No Action alternative will be included. Under
the No Action alternative the Services would not issue section
10(a)(1)(B) permits. In addition, the EIS/EIR will identify potentially
significant direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on biological
resources, land use, air quality, water quality, water resources,
socioeconomics, and other environmental resources that could occur with
the implementation of the proposed actions and alternatives. A detailed
description of the impacts of the proposed action and each alternative
will be included in the EIS/EIR. For all potentially significant
impacts, the EIS/EIR will identify avoidance, minimization, and
mitigation measures to reduce these impacts, where feasible, to a level
below significance.
    The primary purpose of the scoping process is for the public to
assist the Services and the San Francisco Planning Department in
developing the EIS/EIR by identifying important issues and alternatives
related to the proposed action. FWS and NMFS propose to serve as co-
lead Federal agencies under NEPA for preparation of the EIS. The San
Francisco Planning Department will be the lead agency for preparation
of the EIR under CEQA.
    The Services request that comments be specific. In particular, we
request information regarding: the direct, indirect, and cumulative
impacts that implementation of the proposed Plan could have on
endangered and threatened and other covered species, and their
communities and habitats; other possible alternatives that meet the
purpose and need; potential adaptive management and/or monitoring
provisions; funding issues; existing environmental conditions in the
plan area; other plans or projects that might be relevant to this
proposed project; and minimization and mitigation efforts.
    Written comments from interested parties are invited to ensure that
the full range of issues related to the permit requests is identified.
Comments will only be accepted in written form. You may submit written
comments by mail, electronic mail to NMFS, facsimile transmission, or
in person (see ADDRESSES). 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.

Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations to attend and participate
in the public meeting should contact Sheila Larsen at (916) 414-6600.
To allow sufficient time to process requests, please call no later than
one week before the public meeting. Information regarding this proposed
action is available in alternative formats upon request.

    Dated: December 15, 2008.
Richard E. Sayers, Jr.,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, California
and Nevada Region, Sacramento, California.

    Dated: December 16, 2008.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, National Marine Fisheries Service,
Office of Protected Resources.
[FR Doc. E8-30374 Filed 12-19-08; 8:45 am]