[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 241 (Friday, December 14, 2012)]
[Pages 74500-74504]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30182]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2012-N226; FF08ESMF00-FXES11120800000-134]

Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation 
Plan for Western Butte County, CA: Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; notice of public scoping meeting; request for 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National 
Environmental Policy Act for the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan/
Natural Community Conservation Plan for Western Butte County, hereafter 
referred to as the Butte Regional Conservation Plan (BRCP). This 
document is being prepared under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended, and the California Natural Community Conservation Planning 
Act. The BRCP addresses State and Federal endangered species compliance 
requirements for the county of Butte and the cities of Oroville, Chico, 
Biggs, and Gridley (local agencies); the Butte County Association of 
Governments (BCAG); the California Department of Transportation 
(Caltrans); the Western Canal Water District; the Biggs West Gridley 
Water District, Butte Water District; and Richvale Irrigation District; 
and the BRCP implementing entity that will be established to implement 
the BRCP (permit applicants) for activities and projects in the BRCP 
plan area that they conduct or approve. The permit applicants intend to 
apply for a 50-year incidental take permit from the Service. This 
permit is needed to authorize the incidental take of threatened and 
endangered species that could result from activities covered under the 
BCRP. We announce meetings and invite comments.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
January 28, 2013. Two public scoping meetings will be held on January 
9th, 2013, the first from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Oroville City Council 
Chambers, located at 1735 Montgomery Street Oroville, CA 95965; and the 
second from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Butte County Association of 
Governments, at 2580 Sierra Sunrise Terrace Suite 100, Chico, CA 95928.

ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, 
please use one of the following methods, and note that your information 
request or comment is in reference to the Butte Regional Conservation 
Plan (BRCP):
     U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish 
and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 
     In-Person Drop-Off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 916-414-6600 
to make an appointment during regular business hours to drop off 
comments or view

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received comments at the above U.S. mail address.
     Fax: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 916-414-6713, Attn.: 
Mike Thomas.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation 
Planning Division, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, or Eric 
Tattersall, Deputy Assistant Field Supervisor, by phone at 916-414-6600 
or by U.S. mail at the above address. If you use a telecommunications 
device for the deaf, please call the Federal Information Relay Service 
at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), publish this notice under the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; NEPA), and its 
implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 
CFR 1506.6, as well as in compliance with section 10(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; Act). We intend to 
prepare a draft EIS to evaluate the impacts of several alternatives 
related to the potential issuance of an Incidental Take Permit to the 
applicants, as well as impacts of the implementation of the supporting 
proposed Butte Regional Conservation Plan. The EIS will be a joint EIS/
Environmental Impact Report (EIR), for which the Service, BCAG, the 
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the California Department 
of Fish and Game (CDFG), intend to gather information necessary for 
    The BRCP is a comprehensive, regional plan designed to provide 
long-term conservation and management of natural communities, sensitive 
species, and the habitats upon which those species depend, while 
accommodating other important uses of the land. It will serve as a 
habitat conservation plan pursuant to the federal Endangered Species 
Act (Act), and a natural community conservation plan (NCCP) under the 
California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA).
    The Service will serve as the administrative lead for all actions 
related to this Federal Register notice for the EIS component of the 
EIS/EIR. The BCAG will serve as the State lead agency under the 
California Environmental Quality Act for the EIR component. BCAG, in 
accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, is publishing 
a similar notice.

Project Summary

    In 2007, the BRCP planning agreement was entered into and by and 
among the local agencies, BCAG, CDFG, the Service, and NMFS. In 2010, 
Western Canal Water District, Biggs West Gridley Water District, Butte 
Water District, Richvale Irrigation District and Caltrans became 
additional signatories to the planning agreement. The planning 
agreement set out the initial scope of the program and defined the 
roles and responsibilities of the parties in the development of the 
BRCP. The planning agreement has helped guide the BRCP planning process 
and to define the initial scope of the effort. BCAG served as the lead 
in coordination of the process and preparation of the BRCP.
    The BRCP's conservation strategy proposes to provide a regional 
approach for the long-term conservation of covered species (see Covered 
Species, below) and natural communities within the BRCP plan area while 
allowing for compatible future land use and development under county 
and city general plan updates and the regional transportation plans. 
The BRCP identifies and addresses the covered activities carried out by 
the permittees that may result in take of covered species within the 
BRCP plan area.
    The proposed BRCP is intended to be consistent with and support 
compliance with other Federal and State wildlife and related laws and 
regulations, other local conservation planning efforts, and the city 
and county general plans. The BRCP was developed in coordination with 
the development of city and county general plans in the BRCP plan area, 
with feedback loops between the BRCP and general plan processes. These 
feedback loops identified opportunities and constraints and allowed for 
improvements in the general plans regarding the avoidance and 
minimization of impacts on biological resources and the development of 
open space and conservation elements that dovetail with the BRCP.
    The proposed BRCP is designed to streamline and coordinate existing 
processes for review and permitting of public and private activities 
that potentially affect protected species. To meet this goal, the BRCP 
will propose a conservation strategy that includes measures to ensure 
that impacts on covered species and habitats related to covered 
activities are avoided, minimized, or mitigated, as appropriate. 
Covered activities encompass the range of existing and future 
activities that are associated with much of the regional economy (see 
Covered Activities, below).


    Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) 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 species, or to attempt to engage in such conduct (16 
U.S.C. 1532). 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)]. Pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, we 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. Service regulations governing permits for 
threatened species and endangered species, respectively, are 
promulgated in 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act contains provisions for issuing such 
incidental take permits to non-Federal entities for the take of 
endangered and threatened species, provided the following criteria are 
     The taking will be incidental;
     The applicants will, to the maximum extent practicable, 
minimize and mitigate the impact of such taking;
     The applicants will develop a proposed HCP and ensure that 
adequate funding for the plan will be provided;
     The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of 
the survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
     The applicants will carry out any other measures that the 
Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes 
of the HCP.
    Thus, the purpose of issuing an ITP is to allow the applicants, 
under their respective regional authority, to authorize development 
while conserving the covered species and their habitats. Implementation 
of a multispecies HCP, rather than a species-by-species or project-by-
project approach, can maximize the benefits of conservation measures 
for covered species and eliminate expensive and time-consuming efforts 
associated with processing individual ITPs for each project within the 
applicants' proposed Plan Area. The Service expects that the applicants 
will request ITP coverage for a period of 50 years.

Plan Area

    The boundary of the BRCP plan area (or permit area) is based on 
political, ecological, and hydrologic factors. The BRCP plan area 
includes approximately 564,270 acres, including the western lowlands 
and foothills of Butte County.

[[Page 74502]]

The BRCP plan area is bounded on the west by county boundaries with 
Tehama, Glenn, and Colusa Counties; bounded on the south by boundaries 
with Sutter and Yuba Counties; bounded on the north by the boundary 
with Tehama County; and bounded on the east by the upper extent of 
landscape dominated by oak woodland natural communities. Specifically, 
the eastern oak woodland boundary is defined by a line below which 
land-cover types dominated by oak trees comprise more than one half of 
the land cover present, plus a small portion of the City of Chico that 
extends above the oak zone.

Covered Activities

    The proposed section 10 incidental take permit may allow take of 
covered wildlife species resulting from covered activities on non-
Federal land in the proposed BRCP plan area. BCAG and local partners 
intend to request incidental take authorization for covered species 
that could be affected by activities identified in the BRCP. The 
activities within the BRCP plan area for which incidental take permit 
coverage is requested include construction and maintenance of 
facilities and infrastructure, both public and private, that are 
consistent with local general plans and local, State and Federal laws. 
The following is a summary of covered activities as proposed in the 
BRCP. Activities are grouped geographically (within Urban Permit Areas, 
outside urban permit areas, and within the system of conservation lands 
established in the BRCP), and are further grouped into activities that 
result in permanent development, and activities involving maintenance 
of existing or new facilities that are expected to occur over time 
during the permit duration. This following list is not intended to be 
exhaustive; rather, it provides an overview of the types of activities 
that would be expected to occur.
    1. Activities within Urban Permit Areas (UPAs) are areas within the 
BRCP plan area for which the cities and County anticipate urban 
development under their respective general plan updates.
    a. Permanent Development: Covered activities within UPAs as a 
result of new construction and improvements to existing facilities are 
covered, including the following types of activities: residential, 
commercial, public facilities, and industrial construction; 
recreational activity-related construction; transportation facilities 
construction; pipeline installation; utility services (above and below 
ground); waste and wastewater management activities; flood control and 
stormwater management activities; and in-water permanent development 
    b. Recurring Maintenance: Covered activities within UPAs include 
maintenance of existing and new facilities that results in temporary 
impacts, including the following types of activities: recreational 
activities; transportation facilities maintenance; pipeline 
maintenance; utility services; waste and wastewater facilities 
management activities; flood control and stormwater management 
activities; vegetation management; bridge and drainage structure 
maintenance; in-water recurring maintenance activities; and irrigation 
and drainage canal activities (Western Canal Water District, Biggs West 
Gridley Water District, Butte Water District, and Richvale Irrigation 
    2. Activities outside UPAs are areas of the county within the BRCP 
plan area and located outside of the UPAs. Covered activities include 
linear utilities, transportation construction and maintenance projects, 
and agricultural support services projects. Outside UPAs do not include 
areas that become part of BRCP conservation lands.
    a. Permanent Development: Covered activities of outside UPAs 
include new construction and improvements to existing facilities, 
including the following types of activities: waste management and 
wastewater facilities; rerouting of canals (Western Canal Water 
District, Biggs West Gridley Water District, Butte Water District, and 
Richvale Irrigation District); transportation facilities construction; 
BCAG Regional Transportation Plan and Caltrans projects; county rural 
bridge replacement projects; Butte County rural intersection 
improvement projects; Butte County rural roadway improvement projects; 
in-water permanent development projects; and agricultural services.
    b. Recurring Maintenance: Covered activities of outside UPAs 
include maintenance of existing and new facilities, including the 
following types of activities: waste and wastewater management 
activities; irrigation and drainage canal activities (Western Canal 
Water District, Biggs West Gridley Water District, Butte Water 
District, and Richvale Irrigation District); transportation facilities 
maintenance; flood control and stormwater management activities; 
vegetation management; in-water maintenance activities; and bridge and 
drainage structure maintenance.
    3. Conservation Lands include the system of conservation lands 
established under the BRCP. Conservation actions will be implemented by 
the BRCP on conservation lands, including the following types of 
activities: habitat management; habitat restoration and enhancement; 
habitat and species monitoring; directed studies; general maintenance 
of conservation lands and facilities; avoidance and minimization 
measures; and species population enhancement measures.

Covered Species

    Covered Species are those species addressed in the proposed BRCP 
for which conservation actions will be implemented and for which the 
permit applicants will seek incidental take authorizations for a period 
of up to 50 years. Proposed covered species are expected to include 
threatened and endangered species listed under the Act, species listed 
under the California Endangered Species Act, and currently unlisted 
species. Species proposed for coverage in the BRCP are species that are 
currently listed as federally threatened or endangered or have the 
potential to become listed during the life of this BRCP and have some 
likelihood to occur within the BRCP plan area. The BRCP is currently 
expected to address 41 listed and non-listed wildlife and plant 
species. The list of proposed covered species may change as the 
planning process progresses; species may be added or removed as more is 
learned about the nature of covered activities and their impact within 
the BRCP plan area.
    The following federally listed threatened and endangered wildlife 
species are proposed to be covered by the BRCP: The threatened Central 
Valley steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), endangered Sacramento River 
winter-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), threatened 
Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), 
threatened green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), threatened Valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), 
endangered vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi), endangered 
conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), threatened vernal 
pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), and threatened giant garter 
snake (Thamnophis gigas).
    The following unlisted wildlife species are proposed to be covered 
by the BRCP: tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), yellow-breasted 
chat (Icteria virens), bank swallow (Riparia riparia), Western 
burrowing owl (Athene

[[Page 74503]]

cunicularia hypugea), western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus 
occidentalis), greater sandhill crane (Grus canadensis tabida), 
California black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis coturniculus), American 
peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum), Swainson's hawk (Buteo 
swainsoni), white-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus), Blainville's horned lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii), 
Western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata), foothill yellow-legged frog 
(Rana boylii), Western spadefoot toad (Spea hammondii), Central Valley 
fall/late fall-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), 
Sacramento splittail (Pogonichthys macrolepidotus), and river lamprey 
(Lampetra ayresii).
    Take of listed plant species is not prohibited on non-Federal land 
under the Act, and cannot be authorized under a section 10 permit. 
However, the permit applicants propose to include plant species on the 
permit in recognition of the conservation benefits provided for them 
under an HCP. For the purposes of the plan, certain plant species are 
further included to meet regulatory obligations under section 7 of the 
Act and the California Endangered Species Act. The Applicant would 
receive assurances under the Service's ``No Surprises'' regulations 
found in 50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5) for all species on the 
incidental take permit. The following federally listed plant species 
are proposed to be included in the BRCP in recognition of the 
conservation benefits provided for them under the BRCP and the 
assurances permit holders would receive if they are included on a 
permit: the threatened Hoover's spurge (Chamaesyce hooveri), endangered 
Butte County meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccosa ssp. californica), 
endangered hairy Orcutt grass (Orcuttia pilosa), threatened slender 
Orcutt grass (Orcuttia tenuis), and endangered Greene's tuctoria 
(Tuctoria greenei). The following unlisted plant species are also 
proposed to be included in the BRCP: Ferris' milkvetch (Astragalus 
tener var. ferrisiae), lesser saltscale (Atriplex minuscule), Ahart's 
dwarf rush (Juncus leiospermus var. ahartii), Red Bluff dwarf rush 
(Juncus leiospermus var. leiospermus), veiny monardella (Monardella 
douglasii ssp. venosa), Ahart's paronychia (Paronychia ahartii), 
California beaked-rush (Rhynchospora californica) Butte County 
checkerbloom (Sidalcea robusta), and Butte County golden clover 
(Trifolium jokerstii).

Environmental Impact Statement

    Before deciding whether to issue the requested Federal incidental 
take permit, the Service will prepare a draft EIS, in order to analyze 
the environmental impacts associated with issuance of the incidental 
take permit. In the EIS, the Service will consider the following 
alternatives: (1) The proposed action, which includes the issuance of 
take authorizations consistent with the proposed BRCP under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act; (2) no action (no permit issuance); and (3) a 
reasonable range of additional alternatives. The EIS/EIR will include a 
detailed analysis of the impacts of the proposed action and 
alternatives. The range of alternatives could include variations in 
impacts, conservation, permit duration, covered species, covered 
activities, permit area, or a combination of these elements.
    The EIS/EIR will identify and analyze potentially significant 
direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of our authorization of 
incidental take (permit issuance) and the implementation of the 
proposed BRCP on biological resources, land uses, utilities, air 
quality, water resources, cultural resources, socioeconomics and 
environmental justice, recreation, aesthetics, climate change and 
greenhouse gases, and other environmental issues that could occur with 
implementation of each alternative. The Service will use all 
practicable means, consistent with NEPA and other relevant 
considerations of national policy, to avoid or minimize significant 
effects of our actions on the quality of the human environment.
    Following completion of the environmental review, the Service will 
publish a notice of availability and a request for comment on the draft 
EIS/EIR and the applicants' permit application, which will include the 
proposed HCP.

Public Comments

    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this 
notice. We will consider these comments in developing a draft EIS/EIR 
and in the development of an HCP and ITP. We particularly seek comments 
on the following:
    1. Biological information concerning the species;
    2. Relevant data concerning the species;
    3. Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of the species;
    4. Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the species;
    5. The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, 
historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic 
preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project 
planning by the National Historic Preservation Act; and
    6. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed development and permit action.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in the ADDRESSES section.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we use in preparing the EIS/EIR document, will be 
available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business 
hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the Service's 
Sacramento address (see ADDRESSES).

Scoping Meetings

    See DATES for the dates and times of our public meetings. The 
purpose of scoping meetings is to provide the public with a general 
understanding of the background of the proposed HCP and activities it 
would cover, alternative proposals under consideration for the draft 
EIS, and the Service's role and steps to be taken to develop the draft 
EIS for the proposed HCP.
    The primary purpose of these meetings and public comment period is 
to solicit suggestions and information on the scope of issues and 
alternatives for the Service to consider when drafting the EIS. Written 
comments will be accepted at the meetings. Comments can also be 
submitted by methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. Once the draft 
EIS and proposed HCP are complete and made available for review, there 
will be additional opportunity for public comment on the content of 
these documents through additional public comment periods.

Meeting Location Accommodations

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meetings should contact Mike Thomas at 916-
414-6600 as soon as possible. In order 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.


    We provide this notice under section 10 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.) and per NEPA Regulations (40 CFR 1501.7, 40 CFR 1506.6, and 

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    Dated: December 10, 2012
Alexandra Pitts,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2012-30182 Filed 12-13-12; 8:45 am]