[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 61 (Wednesday, March 30, 2011)]
[Pages 17666-17668]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-7420]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2011-N010; 1112-0000-80221-F2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Permits; Joint 
Supplemental Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact 
Statement, Riverside County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), in coordination 
with the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC), are gathering 
information necessary for the preparation of a joint Supplemental 
Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement 
(Supplemental EIR/EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA). This is a Supplemental EIR/EIS to the approved and certified 
September 2007 Final Recirculated EIR/EIS for the Coachella Valley 
Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan, or CVMSHCP). The 
Supplemental EIR/EIS will consider the environmental effects associated 
with the issuance of an amended permit for the CVMSHCP, adding the City 
of Desert Hot Springs (City) and Mission Springs Water District (MSWD) 
as permittees under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as 
amended.We are furnishing this notice to announce the initiation of a 
public scoping period, during which we invite other agencies, Tribes, 
and interested persons to provide comments to identify and discuss the 
scope of issues and alternatives that should be addressed in the 
Supplemental EIR/EIS.

DATES: Written comments must be received by 5 p.m. on April 29, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Mr. Jim A. Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Suite 101, 
Carlsbad, CA 92011. Alternatively, you may submit comments by facsimile 
to (760) 918-0638.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carol Roberts, Division Chief, 
Coachella and Imperial Valleys (see ADDRESSES), telephone (760) 431-

[[Page 17667]]



    In accordance with section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the Coachella 
Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC) is preparing a proposed habitat 
conservation plan (HCP) in support of an application for an amended 
permit from the Service to incidentally take listed species. Section 9 
of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1538) and its implementing regulations prohibit 
the take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. The term 
``take'' is defined under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1532) as to harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect or attempt 
to engage in such conduct. ``Harm'' is defined in the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR) by Service regulations at 50 CFR 17.3 to include 
significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills 
or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavior 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering. In certain 
circumstances, under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA, we may issue 
permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed species. 
``Incidental take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is incidental 
to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. 
Regulations governing permits for threatened and endangered species are 
found at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 17.22, respectively. Take of listed 
plant species on non-Federal lands is not prohibited under the ESA, and 
authorization under an ESA section 10 permit is not required. However, 
plant species may be included on a permit in recognition of the 
conservation benefits provided for them under the HCP. If the permit is 
issued, the CVCC would receive assurances for all species included on 
the incidental take permit under the Service's ``No Surprises'' 
regulations (50 CFR 17.22 (b)(5) and 17.32 (b)(5)).
    Section 10 of the ESA specifies the requirements for the issuance 
of incidental take permits to non-Federal entities. Any proposed take 
must be incidental to otherwise lawful activities and must not 
appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the 
species in the wild. The impacts of such take must also be minimized 
and mitigated to the maximum extent practicable. To obtain an 
incidental take permit, an applicant must prepare a HCP describing the 
impact that would likely result from the proposed taking, the measures 
for minimizing and mitigating the take, the funding available to 
implement such measures, alternatives to the taking, and the reason why 
such alternatives are not being implemented.
    In February 2006, the Final CVMSHCP and associated Final EIR/EIS 
were released for review and approval by the participating 
jurisdictions and agencies as part of the application process to 
support the issuance of take authorizations by the Service (April 1, 
2006, 71 FR 20719). However, in June 2006, the City voted not to 
approve the Plan. Subsequently, the Coachella Valley Association of 
Governments (CVAG) Executive Committee rescinded its approval of the 
Plan and directed that Desert Hot Springs be removed as a Permittee. 
The CVAG prepared and recirculated a revised Plan and associated EIR/
EIS, which removed the City and made other modifications consistent 
with direction from the CVAG Executive Committee (March 30, 2007, 72 FR 
    The revised and recirculated CVMSHCP was approved and the 
associated Final Recirculated EIR/EIS was certified by CVAG and the 
CVCC in September 2007 and subsequently by all local Permittees by the 
end of October 2007. The State Permittees (Caltrans, CVMC, and 
California State Parks) approved the Plan and signed the Implementing 
Agreement as of March 2008. The Final Recirculated CVMSHCP, which did 
not include the City, received final State and Federal permits on 
September 9 and October 1, 2008, respectively.
    However, in a reversal of their June 2006 decision to optout of the 
Plan, the City Council reconsidered their decision and unanimously 
approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in October 2007, stating 
the parties' mutual intent to enter into negotiations for the City to 
join the CVMSHCP as a Permittee. The MOU was subsequently approved by 
the CVCC, CVAG, and the County of Riverside as of February 2008. 
Subsequent to the City's decision, the MSWD has also made the decision 
to join the CVMSHCP as a Permittee, and the addition of both entities 
as Permittees will be evaluated in the Supplemental EIR/EIS.
    The Amendment to reinstate the City proposes that the Plan 
provisions and boundaries will be based on the February 2006 CVMSHCP, 
with modifications as described in the September 2007 Final 
Recirculated CVMSHCP to provide for the Riverside County Flood Control 
and Water Conservation District's future flood control facility. The 
current Plan boundaries would be amended to include all of the private 
lands within the City limits and restore the original boundaries of the 
Upper Mission Creek/Big Morongo Canyon and Whitewater Canyon 
Conservation Areas within City limits. Adding the City as a Permittee 
requires a Major Amendment to the CVMSHCP in accordance with the 
requirements outlined in Section 6.12.4 of the Plan. The procedures 
outlined in Section 6.12.4 state that Major Amendments require the same 
process to be followed as for the original CVMSHCP approval, including 
California Environmental Quality Act and NEPA compliance. In addition, 
MSWD, not previously a participating agency, has also opted to join the 
CVMSHCP as a Permittee. MSWD and the City have proposed that a number 
of infrastructure projects be included as Covered Activities under the 
Plan. Covered Activities include certain activities carried out or 
conducted by Permittees, which receive take authorization under an 
USFWS section 10(a)(1)(B) permit and a State Natural Community 
Conservation Planning Permit, provided these activities are otherwise 
lawful. Details of the proposed Covered Activities for an amended 
permit will be provided in the amended CVMHCP and Supplemental EIR/EIS.

Environmental Impact Statement

    Prior to issuing an amendment to the permit, we will prepare a 
draft Supplemental EIR/EIS to analyze the environmental impacts 
associated with the issuance of the requested permit amendment and the 
implementation of the amended CVMSHCP by the City and the MSWD. The 
Fish and Wildlife Service is the NEPA lead for the Supplemental EIR/
EIS, and we are responsible for the scope and content of the document. 
The Supplemental EIR/EIS will consider the proposed action, the 
issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit amendment under the ESA, No 
Action (no permit amendment), and a reasonable range of alternatives. A 
detailed description of the impacts of the proposed action and each 
alternative will be included in the Supplemental EIR/EIS.
    The proposed action and alternatives will be evaluated against the 
No Action alternative, which assumes that no permit amendment will be 
issued. A range of alternatives will be considered and analyzed, 
representing varying levels of conservation and impacts. The 
alternatives to be considered for analysis in the Supplemental EIR/EIS 
may include: Variations in the scope of covered activities; variations 
in the location, amount, and type of conservation; variations in permit 
duration; or a combination of these

[[Page 17668]]

elements. The Supplemental EIR/EIS will also identify potentially 
significant direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on biological 
resources, land use, air quality, water quality, water resources, and 
socioeconomics, along with other environmental issues that could occur 
with the implementation of the proposed actions and alternatives. For 
all potentially significant impacts, the Supplemental EIR/EIS will 
identify avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures to reduce 
these impacts, where feasible, to a level below significance.

Public Comments

    Please direct any comments to the Service contact listed above in 
the ADDRESSES section, and any questions to the Service contact listed 
in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. All comments and 
materials received, including names and addresses, will become part of 
the administrative record and may be released to the public. 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.

    Authority: This notice is provided under section 10(a) of the 
ESA and Service regulations for implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: March 24, 2011.
Paul McKim,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2011-7420 Filed 3-29-11; 8:45 am]