[Federal Register: May 18, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 95)]
[Page 27000-27002]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Bureau of Reclamation
Fish and Wildlife Service

Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP) for the Lower Colorado 
River, Arizona, Nevada, and California

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


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and 
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Bureau of Reclamation 
(Reclamation), Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), and the 
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, intend to prepare 
an EIS/EIR to evaluate the impacts associated with implementing the 
MSCP for the Lower Colorado River in the states of Arizona, Nevada, and 

DATES AND ADDRESSES: Written comments on conservation alternatives and 
issues to be addressed in the EIS/EIR are requested by July 27, 1999, 
and should be sent to Mr. Tom Shrader, Attention: LC-2500, Bureau of 
Reclamation, PO Box 61470, Boulder City, NV 89006-1470, or FAX'd to Mr. 
Shrader at (702) 293-8146. Oral and written comments will be accepted 
at the open house format public scoping meetings to be held at the 
following locations:

June 15, 1999, 5:00 p.m., Bureau of Land Management Havasu Field 
Office, 2610 Sweetwater Drive, Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
June 16, 1999, 5:00 p.m., Avi Hotel and Casino, 10000 Aha Macav 
Parkway, Laughlin, Nevada.
June 17, 1999, 5:00 p.m., Henderson Convention Center, 200 South Water 
Street, Henderson, Nevada.
June 22, 1999, 5:00 p.m., Yuma Desalting Plant, Bureau of Reclamation, 
7301 Calle Agua Salada, Yuma, Arizona.
June 23, 1999, 5:00 p.m., Arizona Department of Water Resources, 
conference rooms A and B, third floor, 500 North 3rd Street, Phoenix, 

[[Page 27001]]

June 30, 1999, 5:00 p.m., Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall Post 2987, 148 
North 1st Street, Blythe, California.
July 1, 1999, 5:00 p.m., Ontario Airport Marriott, 2200 East Holt 
Boulevard, Ontario, California.

Environmental Compliance, Bureau of Reclamation at (702) 293-8703 or 
Mr. Gilbert D. Metz, Supervisory Coordinator for Federal Projects, Fish 
and Wildlife Service at (602) 640-2720, ext. 217. Questions regarding 
the CEQA process should be directed to Dr. Debbie Drezner, Metropolitan 
Water District at (213) 217-6218. Information on the purpose, 
membership, meeting schedules and documents associated with the MSCP 
may be obtained on the Internet at www.lcrmscp.org., with a 
supplemental link to Reclamation's web page at www.lc.usbr.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The proposed action is a multi-species 
conservation program that will move Federal and California Endangered 
Species Act (ESA and CESA) listed species, and potentially listed 
species, toward recovery while accommodating current water and power 
operations and optimizing opportunities for future water and power 
development. Reclamation and the Service are joint Federal leads for 
the EIS. The EIS will be the basis for (1) Reclamation's Record of 
Decision on implementing its portion of the MSCP and (2) the Service's 
Record of Decision on issuing an ESA section 10 permit. The EIS/EIR 
document will also include a biological assessment of Reclamation's 
ongoing and future discretionary actions, which the Service will 
utilize in preparing a biological opinion per section 7 of the ESA. The 
Metropolitan Water District is the designated CEQA lead agency for the 
    The Lower Colorado River MSCP is a partnership of state, Federal, 
tribal, and other public and private stakeholders with interest in 
managing the water and related resources of the Lower Colorado River 
basin. In August of 1995, the Department of the Interior and the states 
of Arizona, Nevada, and California entered into a Memorandum of 
Agreement and later a Memorandum of Clarification (MOA/MOC) for 
Development of a Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation 
Program. The purpose of the MOA/MOC was to initiate development of an 
MSCP that will: (1) conserve habitat and work toward the recovery of 
threatened and endangered species as well as reduce the likelihood of 
additional species listings under the ESA and the CESA, and (2) 
accommodate current water diversions and power production and optimize 
opportunities for future water and power development, to the extent 
consistent with the law.
    The participants agreed to develop, implement, and fund the MSCP. 
It was also agreed to pursue an ecosystem-based approach to developing 
the MSCP for interim and long-term compliance with applicable 
endangered species and environmental laws and to implement conservation 
and protection measures for included species and habitats.
    It is proposed that the MSCP will serve as a coordinated, 
comprehensive conservation approach for the lower Colorado River basin 
within the 100-year floodplain from below Glen Canyon Dam to the 
Southerly International Boundary with Mexico for a period of 50 years. 
Potential conservation measures or alternatives currently under 
consideration for various fish species (e.g., endangered razorback 
sucker) and their habitats may include evaluating the use of backwaters 
between native and nonnative species; managing to minimize conflicts 
between native and nonnative aquatic species by constructing isolated 
native fish refugia; restoring floodplain connections and ephemeral 
backwaters in an effort to restore floodplain functions; augmenting 
native fish populations through stocking and additional rearing 
capacity; implementing a genetic management plan for native fish 
populations; enhancing fish passage; managing to minimize take; and 
managing discretionary flows to enhance and restore habitat. Potential 
conservation measures or alternatives currently under consideration to 
benefit various bird species (e.g., endangered southwestern willow 
flycatcher) and their habitats may include protecting and restoring 
habitat; protecting existing habitat through activities such as 
managing access; maintaining hydrologic conditions; fire protection 
using prescribed fires/fire planning and postfire rehabilitation; 
converting agricultural land to habitat (acquire land and water rights 
from willing sellers); managing large mammal problems (e.g., burro 
grazing and trampling); controlling threats from other species such as 
cowbird trapping; vegetation management including the need to improve 
habitat; and manipulating discretionary flows to enhance and restore 
habitat. Additional conservation measures or alternatives may be 
identified during the scoping process. The needs of these and other 
species identified in the MSCP will be integrated to maximize 
biodiversity of the Lower Colorado River. Research and monitoring in 
combination with adaptive management will be used to facilitate 
accomplishment of these goals.
    Under the No Action/No Project alternative, it is assumed that some 
or all of the current and future projects proposed for coverage under 
the MSCP would be implemented, as long as they are in compliance with 
the ESA. The No Action/No Project alternative would imply that the 
impacts from these potential projects on sensitive species and habitats 
would be evaluated and mitigated on a project-by-project basis, as is 
presently the case. Individual ESA Section 10 permits would be required 
for activities involving take of listed species due to nonfederal 
projects/actions. Without a coordinated, comprehensive ecosystem-based 
conservation approach for the region, listed species may not be 
adequately addressed by individual project-specific mitigation 
requirements, unlisted ``at risk'' species would not receive proactive 
action intended to prevent their listing, and project-specific 
mitigation would be less cost effective in helping Federal and 
nonfederal agencies work toward recovery of listed species. Current 
independent conservation actions would continue, although some of these 
are not yet funded.
    A public involvement program has been initiated and will be 
maintained throughout this EIS/EIR process. The goal is to keep the 
public and affected parties informed and actively involved as the 
project evolves. Given the number of entities participating (Federal, 
State, and local governments, tribes, and private interest groups), 
successfully providing information and soliciting feedback are critical 
to the project's effectiveness.
    Probable Environmental Effects--Following is a preliminary list of 
probable environmental issues and effects associated with the project. 
Other issues may be identified during the internal MSCP and public 
scoping process. Until a firm proposal and alternatives with specific 
actions and locations are developed, it is difficult to predict 
specific impacts.
    Biological Resources--Among the endangered species known to use the 
project area are the southwestern willow flycatcher, Yuma clapper rail, 
razorback sucker, bonytail, peregrine falcon, and bald eagle (being 
considered for delisting). Of prime concern will be the conservation of 
these and other species, such as the yellow billed cuckoo (under review 
for listing under the ESA), and associated habitat within the 100-year 
floodplain. Overall impacts on

[[Page 27002]]

biological resources are expected to be positive.
    Hydrology and Water Quality--Certain conservation measures and flow 
regimes may alter onsite water resources, including waters of the 
United States [as defined in 40 CFR 230.3(s)], which are under the U.S. 
Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jurisdiction. Under Section 404 of the 
Clean Water Act, the Corps is responsible for issuing a permit if a 
project may result in the placement of material into water of the 
United States. Until specific alternatives are developed, the effects 
on hydrology and water quality are unknown.
    Floodplains and Wetlands--Implementation of the MSCP will have 
overall beneficial impacts on floodplains and wetlands, especially in 
maintaining or creating backwaters (wetlands) and reestablishing native 
riparian habitat which is essential to the recovery of species.
    Municipal and Industrial Uses--Municipal and industrial water uses 
may be affected by various conservation measures that require 
additional water. However, it is the intent of the MSCP to accommodate 
these uses and optimize future opportunities while protecting 
threatened and endangered species and their habitat within the project 
    Cultural Resources--The program could disturb or affect 
archaeological resources, traditional cultural properties, Indian 
sacred sites, and Indian Trust Assets. However, it is the intent of the 
MSCP to avoid such effects.
    Socioeconomics--The program may have overall beneficial 
socioeconomics effects on the Lower Colorado River. However, the extent 
of such effects will not be known until specific conservation 
alternatives are identified.
    Recreation--In addressing species needs, there may be adverse 
impacts to localized recreational uses such as motorized boating, off-
highway vehicle use, and angling.
    Water and Hydroelectric Power Uses--Water and hydroelectric power 
uses may be affected by various conservation measures that involve 
discretionary release patterns. However, it is the intent of the MSCP 
to accommodate these uses while protecting threatened and endangered 
species and their habitat within the project area.
    Agricultural and Other Land Uses--Current agricultural resources or 
operations and land uses may be impacted. Land use and cropping 
patterns would change with the voluntary conversion of agricultural 
lands to native riparian habitat or the transfer of water rights for 
habitat maintenance and restoration.
    International Impacts--Potential trans-boundary impacts to Mexico 
will be identified and analyzed. The project will not affect the 
delivery of water pursuant to the Mexico Water Treaty.
    Environmental Justice--It is anticipated that the MSCP will not 
result in disproportionately high and adverse human health or 
environmental effects on minorities and/or low income populations.
    Related Project Documentation--It is anticipated that the EIS/EIR 
process will make full use (including incorporation by reference, as 
appropriate, pursuant to NEPA and CEQA) of the following project 
documents, copies of which are available for inspection at the 
Metropolitan Water District, Reclamation, and Service offices:
    Bureau of Reclamation, Description and Assessment of Operations, 
Maintenance, and Sensitive Species of the Lower Colorado River--Final 
Biological Assessment, August 1996.
    Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological and Conference Opinion on 
Lower Colorado River Operations and Maintenance--Lake Mead to Southerly 
International Boundary, April 1997.
    Starting in June 1999, these documents may also be accessed through 
Reclamation's web site at www.lc.usbr.gov.
    The draft EIS/EIR is expected to be completed by June 2000.

    Dated: May 5, 1999.
LeGrand Neilson,
Assistant Regional Director, Lower Colorado Region, Bureau of 
Geoffrey L. Haskett,
Acting Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-12316 Filed 5-17-99; 8:45 am]