[Federal Register: January 26, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 16)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 3915-3923]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF34

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Proposed 
Threatened Status for the Santa Ana Sucker

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, propose threatened status 
pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), for 
the Santa Ana sucker (Catostomus santaanae). The species is threatened 
by potential habitat destruction, natural and human-induced changes in 
streamflows, urban development and related land-use practices, 
intensive recreation, the introduction of non-native competitors and 
predators, and demographics associated with small populations. This 
proposed rule, if made final, would invoke the Federal protection and 
recovery provisions of the Act for this fish species within the Los 
Angeles, San Gabriel, and Santa Ana River drainages.

DATES: We must receive comments from all interested parties by March 
29, 1999. We must receive public hearing requests by March 12, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Send comments and materials concerning this proposal to the 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Field 
Office, 2730 Loker Avenue West, Carlsbad, California 92008. Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul J. Barrett, biologist, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, at the above address (or telephone 760-431-9440; 
facsimile 760-431-9624).



    The Santa Ana sucker (Catostomus santaanae) is a recognized full 
species and member of the sucker family (Catostoidae). The Santa Ana 
sucker was originally described as Pantosteus santa-anae by Snyder 
(1908, as in Moyle 1976). The genus Pantosteus was reduced to a 
subgenus of Catostomus and the hyphen omitted from the specific name in 
a subsequent revision of the nomenclature (Smith 1966). Moyle (1976) 
described the Santa Ana sucker as less than 16 centimeters (6.3 inches 
(in)) in length. The Santa Ana sucker is silvery below, darker along 
the back with irregular blotches, and the membranes connecting the rays 
of the tail are pigmented.
    The Santa Ana sucker inhabits streams that are generally small and 
shallow, with currents ranging from swift (in canyons) to sluggish (in 
the bottomlands). All the streams are subject to periodic severe 
flooding (Moyle 1976). Santa Ana suckers appear to be most abundant 
where the water is cool (less than 22 deg. Celsius) (72 deg. 
Farenheit), unpolluted and clear, although they can tolerate and 
survive in seasonally turbid water (Moyle 1976, Moyle and Yoshiyama 
1992). Santa Ana suckers feed mostly on algae, which they scrap off of 
rocks and other hard substrates. Larger fish generally feed more on 
insects than do smaller fish (Moyle 1976).
    Santa Ana suckers generally live no more than 3 years (Greenfield 
et al. 1970). Spawning occurs from early April to early July. The peak 
spawning activity occurs in late May and June. Females produce 
approximately 4,000 to 16,000 eggs ranging in size from 78 millimeters 
(mm) (3.1 in) to 158 mm (6.2 in), respectively (Moyle 1976). The 
combination of early sexual maturity, protracted spawning period, and 
high fecundity should allow the Santa Ana sucker to quickly repopulate 
streams following periodic flood events that can decimate populations 
(Greenfield et al. 1970, Moyle 1976).
    The native range of the Santa Ana sucker includes the Los Angeles, 
San Gabriel, and Santa Ana River drainage systems in Los Angeles, 
Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties (Smith 1966). Although 
historic records are scarce, Santa Ana suckers presumably ranged from 
near the Pacific Ocean to the uplands in the Los Angeles River in the 
San Gabriel River system, and to at least Pump House #1 (near the San 
Bernardino National Forest boundary) in the Santa Ana River (Swift et 
al. 1993; C. Swift, Loyola Marymount University, pers. comm. 1996). 
Within its native range, the species is now restricted to three 
noncontiguous populations--lower Big Tujunga Creek (Los Angeles River 
drainage), the East, West, and North Forks of the San Gabriel River 
(San Gabriel River drainage), and the lower and middle Santa Ana River 
(Santa Ana River drainage) (Moyle and Yoshiyama 1992). An introduced 
population also occurs in the Santa Clara River drainage system, 
Ventura and Los Angeles counties (Moyle 1976, Smith 1966, Swift et al. 
1993). Although the Santa Ana sucker was described as common in the 
1970s (Moyle 1976), the species has experienced declines throughout 
most of its range (Swift et al. 1993). The present distribution is as 
    Los Angeles River system. Although historically present, the 
species may have been extirpated from the Los Angeles River (Swift et 
al. 1993). Santa Ana suckers are still found in portions of Big Tujunga 
Creek (a tributary of the Los Angeles River) below Big Tujunga Dam. 
Recent surveys downstream of Big Tujunga Dam found the species to be 
present but rare (fewer than 20 individuals collected at each site) in 
the vicinities of Delta Flat, Wildwood, and Big Tujunga Dam and 
abundant (an estimated 200 individuals collected) near Stoneyvale (M. 
Wickman, Angeles National Forest, in litt. 1996). The portions of Big 
Tujunga Creek occupied by the Santa Ana sucker constitute approximately 
25 percent of the total remaining native range of the species. 
Approximately 60 percent of the range of the Santa Ana sucker in the 
Los Angeles River basin occurs on private lands. The remaining 40 
percent of the range in the Los Angeles River basin occurs on Angeles 
National Forest lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
    San Gabriel River system. In light of current threats and the 
prevailing absence of management, Moyle and Yoshiyama (1992) suggested 
that the only viable population of Santa Ana suckers existing within 
the species' native range occurs in the San Gabriel River drainage 
system. Dr. Tom Haglund (University of California, Los Angeles, in 
litt. 1996) reported surveys in 1995 below Morris Dam failed to locate 
any suckers. Therefore, in the San Gabriel River, the Santa Ana sucker 
appears extant only upstream of the confluence of the East, West, and 
North Forks of the San Gabriel River. Furthermore, the population of 
Santa Ana suckers in the

[[Page 3916]]

North Fork is small. The portions of the San Gabriel River occupied by 
the Santa Ana sucker constitute approximately 15 percent of the total 
remaining native range of the species. However, catch per unit effort 
information gathered during sampling suggests the San Gabriel River may 
contain the most individuals of any remaining population (R. Ally, 
California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), in litt. 1996; M. 
Guisti, CDFG, in litt. 1996; J. Hernandez, California Department of 
Fish and Game, in litt. 1997; Wickman, in litt. 1996). Approximately 15 
percent of the range of the Santa Ana sucker in the San Gabriel River 
basin occur on private lands. The remaining 85 percent of the range in 
the San Gabriel River basin occurs in the Angeles National Forest.
    Santa Ana River system. Several hundred Santa Ana suckers were 
observed in the Santa Ana River downstream of Prado Dam in 1986 and 
1987. In 1996, a general fish survey of the Santa Ana River below Prado 
Dam yielded only five suckers from a total of 271 fishes captured (M. 
Guisti, CDFG, in litt. 1996). In April 1987, only five suckers were 
found during a sampling effort above the Prado Dam from the City of 
Norco to about five kilometers upstream. Thus above the dam, fish were 
scarce, small individuals were absent, and definite evidence of 
reproduction was not obtained (Moyle and Yoshiyama 1992). In 1991, 
sampling indicated that although fishery habitat in the Santa Ana River 
was primarily fair to poor, Santa Ana suckers were abundant between 
Norco and Riverside (Chadwick and Associates 1992). Additionally, 
evidence suggested Santa Ana suckers were using tributaries including 
Tequesquite Arroyo, Sunnyslope Channel, and Anaza Park Drain for 
spawning and nurseries (Chadwick and Associates 1996).
    The Santa Ana sucker survives in the lower portions of the Santa 
Ana River, from the Imperial Highway (State Route 90) to Rubideaux near 
the City of Riverside, but is now apparently absent from the upper 
reach of this river in the San Bernardino Mountains (Moyle and 
Yoshiyama 1992, Swift et al. 1993). The portions of the Santa Ana River 
occupied by the Santa Ana sucker constitute approximately 60 percent of 
the total remaining native range of the species. Approximately 95 
percent of the range of the Santa Ana sucker in the Santa Ana River 
basin occurs on private lands. The balance is within State, county, 
city, and regional park lands, with a very small portion, three 
percent, on military lands. Chadwick and Associates (1996) noted that 
length-frequency analysis indicates Santa Ana suckers are naturally 
reproducing in the Santa Ana River system. Furthermore, they asserted 
Santa Ana sucker population decreases in the river as evidenced by 1996 
surveys (M. Guisti, in litt., 1996) were due to high flows in the basin 
between 1991 and 1996. However, T. Haglund (in litt. 1996) contended 
the large number of suckers reported in tributaries are juveniles and 
may be the progeny of very few adults.
    Santa Clara River system. An introduced population of Santa Ana 
suckers occurs in the Santa Clara River drainage. (Moyle 1976, Smith 
1966, Swift et al. 1993). Santa Ana suckers were present in Piru Creek, 
a major Santa Clara tributary, by 1934 and in the Santa Clara River 
proper and its Sespe Creek tributary by 1940 (Buth and Crabtree 1982). 
Suckers occur from the estuary upstream to several miles upstream from 
the confluence of Sespe Creek, in Sespe Creek, and in several reaches 
in the Soledad Canyon area bordering the Angeles National Forest. 
Portions of the Santa Clara basin population are believed to have 
hybridized with another introduced species, the Owens River sucker 
(Catostomus fumeiventris) (Greenfield et al. 1970). This hybrid 
population occurs in the Sespe Creek area (Swift et al. 1993) in the 

lower to middle reach of the Santa Clara River. The hybrid population 
is separate and isolated (by dry streambed) from the introduced yet 
genetically pure Santa Ana suckers that occur in several portions of 
the upper reach of the Santa Clara River, in and downstream from 
Soledad Canyon. The dewatered sections of the Santa Clara River 
currently act as a barrier keeping the genetically pure Santa Ana 
suckers in the upper reach of the Santa Clara River from mixing with 
the hybrid population in the middle to lower reach of the river. In the 
past, the non-hybridized population of Santa Ana sucker in the Santa 
Clara River drainage system was thought to be large (Buth and Crabtree 
1982). However, Haglund and Baskins (1992) reported that the Santa 
Clara River ``population is in decline and throughout much of the 
drainage has hybridized with another introduced sucker.'' Sespe Creek 
contained a large number of suckers as recently as 1994; however, in 
1996 suckers could not be captured in the creek (T. Haglund, in litt. 
1996). The portions of the Santa Clara River occupied by the introduced 
pure and hybridized suckers, constitute approximately 50 percent of the 
total remaining range of the species. Over 90 percent of the range of 
this population occurs on private lands with the balance on federally 
managed lands.
    In summary, the Santa Ana sucker has declined throughout 
significant portions of its range. The Santa Ana sucker has lost 
approximately 75 percent of its native range. Recent population 
densities range from approximately 246 fish in 1.8 miles on the East 
Fork, San Gabriel River (Hernandez 1997) to five fish in 4.5 miles of 
the Santa Ana River (Guisti 1996). This apparent overall decline in 
population is particularly surprising given the high fecundity and 
apparent broad habitat tolerances of the species. Urbanization, water 
diversions, dams, introduced competitors and/or predators, and other 
human-caused disturbances likely are playing a role in the decline of 
the species. These same factors have led to the decline of other 
western suckers (Minckley et al. 1991, Scoppettone and Vinyard 1991).

Populations Proposed for Protection

    The Santa Ana sucker is recognized as a full species and thus 
constitutes a taxon eligible for protection pursuant to the Act. We are 
proposing to list the Santa Ana sucker only in its native range, which 
consists of the Los Angeles, San Gabriel, and Santa Ana River basins. 
The Santa Clara River population of the Santa Ana sucker is presumed to 
be an introduced population, which is located outside of the species 
native range. Therefore, we are not proposing to designate the Santa 
Clara River population of Santa Ana sucker as threatened pursuant to 
the Act. However, we do believe that the Santa Clara River population 
is important for recovery of the Santa Ana sucker within the Los 
Angeles, San Gabriel, and Santa Ana River basins, and may be used in 
efforts to re-establish the species within its native range.

Previous Federal Action

    On September 6, 1994, we received a petition under the Act to list 
the Santa Ana sucker (Catostomus santaanae), Santa Ana speckled dace 
(Rhinichthys osculus ssp.), and the Shay Creek threespine stickleback 
(Gasterosteus aculeatus ssp.) as endangered species. The petition was 
submitted by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc., on behalf of 
seven groups including the California-Nevada Chapter of the American 
Fisheries Society, The Nature School, California Sportfishing 
Protection Alliance, Friends of the River, Izaak Walton League of 
America, California Trout, and Trout Unlimited. We deferred processing 
of this petition because of other higher priority listing actions and 
severe funding constraints

[[Page 3917]]

imposed by a number of continuing resolutions between November 1995 and 
April 1996.
    On July 9, 1996, we published a 90-day petition finding (61 FR 
36021) that substantial information had been presented indicating 
listing may be warranted for the Santa Ana sucker, and on November 26, 
1996, we published a notice Initiating a Status Review for the Santa 
Ana Sucker (61 FR 60073). On April 3, 1997, we published a notice of 
the 12-month finding for the petition to list the Santa Ana Sucker as 
endangered (62 FR 15872). We announced in this finding that listing the 
Santa Ana sucker was warranted but precluded by higher listing 
priorities. This proposal constitutes the final petition finding of 
warranted as well as the proposal to list the species.
    The threats facing the Santa Ana sucker have not substantially 
changed since the 12-month finding was published, and we consider them 
to be imminent but of moderate magnitude (a lower priority for 
listing). However, staff at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office 
became available to prepare this proposed rule after completing 
listings for other species facing threats of higher magnitude. This 
proposed rule was prepared in accordance with our final listing 
priority guidance published in the Federal Register on May 8, 1998 (63 
FR 25502). The guidance calls for giving highest priority to handling 
emergency situations (Tier 1); second highest priority (Tier 2) to 
resolving the listing status of the outstanding proposed listings, 
resolving the conservation status of candidate species, processing 
administrative findings on petitions, and processing a limited number 
of delistings and reclassifications; and third priority (Tier 3) to 
processing proposed and final designations of critical habitat. The 
processing of this proposed rule falls under Tier 2.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations (50 CFR part 424) promulgated 
to implement the listing provisions of the Act set forth the procedures 
for adding species to the Federal lists. A species may be determined to 
be an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1). These factors and their 
application to the Santa Ana sucker are as follows:
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range. Moyle and Yoshiyama (1992) 
concluded that the native range of the Santa Ana sucker is largely 
coincident with the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Intensive urban 
development of the area has resulted in water diversions, extreme 
alteration of stream channels, changes in the watershed that result in 
erosion and debris torrents, pollution, and the establishment of 
introduced of non-native fishes. Moyle and Yoshiyama (1992) stated, 
``[e]ven though Santa Ana suckers seem to be quite generalized in their 
habitat requirements, they are intolerant of polluted or highly 
modified streams.'' The impact associated with urbanization is likely 
the significant cause of the extirpation of this species from lowland 
reaches of the Los Angeles River and San Gabriel River.
    As the Los Angeles urban area expanded, the Los Angeles, Santa Ana, 
and San Gabriel rivers were highly modified, channelized, or moved in 
an effort to either capture water runoff or protect property. As Moyle 
(1976) stated, ``[t]he lower Los Angeles River is now little more than 
a concrete storm drain.'' The same is true for the Santa Ana and San 
Gabriel rivers. These channelized rivers and canals with uniform and 
altered substrates are not suitable for sustaining Santa Ana sucker 
populations (Chadwick and Associates 1996). Past and continuing 
projects have resulted (or will result) in channelization and concrete 
lining of the Santa Ana River channel throughout most of the native 
range of the Santa Ana sucker in Orange County. Urban development also 
threatens the Santa Ana sucker in the Los Angeles and Santa Ana river 
basins. In addition to physically altering the rivers, this urban 
development has resulted in changes in water quality and quantity, as 
well as the hydrologic regime of the systems.
    All three river systems within the historic range of the Santa Ana 
sucker have dams that isolate and fragment fish populations. Dams 
likely have resulted in some populations being excluded from suitable 
spawning and rearing tributaries. Reservoirs also provide areas where 
introduced predators and competitors can live and reproduce (see factor 
C of this section). Seven Oaks Dam, now under construction upstream 
from the present range of Santa Ana sucker in the Santa Ana River, will 
prevent future upstream movement of fish and further isolate the Santa 
Ana sucker populations from their native range in the headwaters of the 
    The West Fork of the San Gabriel River is threatened by accidental 
high flows from Cogswell Reservoir, which have devastated this section 
of stream several times in the past (Moyle and Yoshiyama 1992; Haglund 
and Baskins 1992; T. Haglund, in litt. 1996). T. Haglund (in litt. 
1996) stated that, ``[t]he West Fork population was wiped out by a 
sluicing event (to remove sediment by releasing a sudden flow of water) 
from Cogswell Dam in 1981 (anecdotal data) but recolonized from 
tributaries that acted as refugia. However, data (from CDFG, no date) 
suggest that the suckers have never returned to their former 
abundance.'' Santa Ana suckers have biological adaptations that allow 
the fish to quickly repopulate streams following periodic flood events. 
However, successive high flows threaten to eliminate the sucker 
population in the West Fork of the San Gabriel River by rapidly 
depleting the individuals soon after they migrate into the mainstem 
from tributaries. Proposals exist to sluice or otherwise remove 
sediment from the Cogswell, Morris, and San Gabriel reservoirs on the 
San Gabriel River system (W. Phillips, California Regional Water 
Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region, in litt. 1998). The 
potential effects of these proposals, the deposition of large amounts 
of silt on the streambed and rapid increase in suspended sediments in 
the water column, threaten the Santa Ana sucker populations in the San 
Gabriel River.
    The petitioners contended that suction dredge mining has increased 
in the Cattle Canyon tributary to the East Fork of the San Gabriel 
River, threatening the Santa Ana sucker. However, the petitioner did 
not provide evidence that suction dredging poses a threat to the 
existence of the fish. We received a comment during the petition review 
process indicating that no suction dredging has occurred in Cattle 
Canyon and suggesting that the petitioners took Moyle and Yoshiyama 
(1992) out of context. (G. Hobbs, Public Lands Action Committee, in 
litt. 1996). The commenter also questioned the veracity of the report 
by Moyle and Yoshiyama and suggested suction dredging is beneficial to 
Santa Ana sucker.
    The CDFG, (P. Wolf, in litt. 1996) indicated they are not aware of 
suction dredging in the Cattle Canyon tributary to the East Fork of the 
San Gabriel River. However, they had issued nearly 200 Special Dredge 
Permits for the East Fork of the San Garbiel River in 1995, the first 
time the East Fork had been dredged in 15 years.
    Surveys in June of 1996 and 1997 indicate the East Fork of the San 
Gabriel River continues to maintain a healthy Santa Ana sucker 
population (R. Ally, CDFG, in litt. 1996; J. Hernandez, CDFG, in litt. 
1997). Few studies exist on the impacts of suction dredging on fishes 
and none that specifically address Santa

[[Page 3918]]

Ana suckers. In their review of the literature, Harvey et al. (1995) 
concluded that small larvae of fish such as suckers are easily damaged 
by physical disturbance, but adults and juveniles are unlikely to be 
directly affected by entrainment because they either avoid or survive 
passage through suction dredges. The impact of increased suspended 
sediment is difficult to predict because of the variability in 
production of suspended sediment and the ways biota may be affected. 
Possible impacts associated with suction dredging include changes in 
stream substrates or food supply. Based on this information, we 
conclude that suction dredging may impact larvae and eggs of Santa Ana 
suckers, particularly if dredging is concentrated in an area containing 
spawning suckers.
    Although the Santa Ana sucker evolved under conditions that 
presumably included droughts, some water diversions and management 
practices threaten the continued existence of the species. For example, 
stretches of the upper Santa Ana River have been permanently dewatered, 
eliminating Santa Ana sucker populations and migration through these 
reaches to other areas (Swift et al. 1993, Swift 1996). As previously 
discussed, channelization of the rivers of the Los Angeles Basin, water 
quality degradation, and dam construction have all combined to lower 
the quality of and eliminate historic Santa Ana sucker habitat. Future 
human population and urban growth of the basin will further stress the 
natural resources of the basin and likely exacerbate these conditions.
    Fluctuations in water quality in the Santa Ana and Los Angeles 
Rivers may threaten the Santa Ana sucker (Moyle and Yoshiyama 1992). 
Several researchers contend nutrient loading rather than acute toxicity 
may threaten the fish (C. Swift and T. Haglund, pers. comm. 1996). 
However, in 1991 Chadwick & Associates (1992) found suckers to be 
common in some areas upstream from Prado Dam where several water 
treatment facilities discharge into the Santa Ana River. They attribute 
the high sucker numbers to adequate water supplies discharged by the 
treatment facilities and the presence of tributaries that offer 
spawning areas and refugia to the suckers. Nevertheless, Santa Ana 
sucker numbers are much reduced in the Santa Ana River (Moyle and 
Yoshiyama 1992; P. Wolf, in litt. 1996). Although water quality 
tolerances of this species are unknown, in general, point and non-point 
source pollution (e.g., urban runoff, sedimentation, etc.) have 
significantly degraded the aquatic resources in most of the native 
range of the Santa Ana sucker. In an effort to identify which water 
quality parameters affect the Santa Ana sucker, the United States 
Geologic Survey, Biological Resources Division in conjunction with us, 
the Orange County Water District, the County of Orange, California, and 
the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, is initiating a 
study of the water quality tolerances of the species. Based on 
currently available information, we conclude that increased turbidity 
and associated deposition of fine particles and sand likely threaten 
the Santa Ana sucker population in the Santa Ana River by decreasing 
the availability of cobble and other hard substrates preferred by the 
species (Moyle and Yoshiyama 1992).
    B. Overutilization for commercial, sporting, scientific, or 
educational purposes. The CDFG reported Santa Ana suckers being 
illegally caught with gill and throw nets in the Santa Ana River below 
Prado Dam (Lt. M. Maytorena, CDFG, pers. comm. 1997). The relative 
impact of these collections on the species is unknown.
    C. Disease or predation. Moyle and Yoshiyama (1992) concluded that 
introduced brown trout (Salmo trutta) may have caused the extirpation 
of the Santa Ana sucker from the upper San Gabriel River in the San 
Bernardino Mountains. The petitioners noted that centrachids 
(sunfishes) and bullheads prey on suckers. In the Los Angeles River 
such introduced predators aggregate in pools during droughts, 
presumably feeding on native fishes including Santa Ana suckers (Sierra 
Club Legal Defense Fund 1994). Similar conditions exist in the Santa 
Ana River. Predation by introduced fishes in combination with habitat 
destruction has been implicated in the decline of other species of 
suckers in the southwest (Minckley et al. 1991, Scoppettone and Vinyard 
1991). Accordingly, introduced predators and competitors likely 
threaten the continued existence of Santa Ana suckers throughout most 
of the species' range.
    D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. Despite the 
presence of existing regulatory mechanisms and conservation activities 
accomplished to date by private, State, and Federal entities, the Santa 
Ana sucker has continued to decline throughout a significant portion of 
its range. Existing regulatory mechanisms that may provide some 
protection for the Santa Ana sucker include--(1) the California 
Endangered Species Act, (2) the California Environmental Quality Act 
(CEQA), (3) the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), (4) the Clean 
Water Act, (5) the Federal Endangered Species Act in those cases where 
the Santa Ana sucker occurs in areas where other federally listed 
species are located, and (6) land management or conservation measures 
by Federal, State, or local agencies or by private groups and 
    The State of California considers the Santa Ana sucker a ``species 
of special concern.'' However, the Santa Ana sucker is not listed as 
endangered or threatened by the State, and ``species of special 
concern'' are afforded no protection under the California Endangered 
Species Act.
    The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires full 
public disclosure of the potential environmental impact of proposed 
projects. This law also obligates disclosure of environmental resources 
within proposed project areas and may enhance opportunities for 
conservation efforts. However, CEQA does not guarantee that such 
conservation efforts will be implemented. The public agency with 
primary authority or jurisdiction over the project is designated as the 
lead agency, and is responsible for conducting a review of the project 
and consulting with other agencies concerned with resources affected by 
the project. Section 15065 of the CEQA guidelines requires a finding of 
significance if a project has the potential to ``reduce the number or 
restrict the range of a rare or endangered plant or animal.'' Species 
that are eligible for listing as rare, threatened, or endangered but 
are not so listed are given the same protection as those species that 
are officially listed with the State. Once significant impacts are 
identified, the lead agency may either require mitigation for effects 
through changes in the project or decide that overriding considerations 
justify approval of a project with significant impacts. In the latter 
case, projects may be approved that cause significant environmental 
damage, such as resulting in the loss of sites supporting State-listed 
species. Protection of listed species through CEQA is, therefore, not 
    Local lead agencies responsible under CEQA have made determinations 
that have adversely affected, or would adversely affect, the Santa Ana 
sucker and its habitat. Examples of projects that have been completed 
or are currently undergoing the review process under CEQA and/or NEPA 
and will impact this species include the Santa Ana River Mainstem 
Project, which contains multiple projects including Seven Oaks Dam and 
the raising of Prado Dam, and continued channelization of the Santa

[[Page 3919]]

Ana River in Orange County. These reviews have not addressed the 
effects of the proposed actions on Santa Ana sucker. Similarly, on the 
San Gabriel River, proposed silt removal from Cogswell Dam may affect 
the sucker. While projects altering a stream course are subject to 
review under section 1601 or 1603 of the California Fish and Game Code, 
such State regulations have not prevented habitat loss or sufficiently 
protected habitat to prevent the decline of the Santa Ana sucker.
    Section 404 of the Clean Water Act represents the primary Federal 
law that affords some protection for the Santa Ana sucker because the 
sucker occurs in an aquatic environment. However, the Clean Water Act, 
by itself does not provide adequate protection for Santa Ana sucker. 
Although the objective of the Clean Water Act is to ``restore and 
maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the 
Nation's waters' (33 U.S.C. Sec. 1251), no specific provisions exist 
that address the need to conserve rare species. The Army Corps of 
Engineers (Corps) is the Federal agency responsible for administering 
the section 404 program. Under section 404, nationwide permits may be 
issued for certain activities that are considered to have minimal 
impacts, including minor dredging and discharges of dredged material, 
some road crossings, and minor bank stabilization (December 13, 1996; 
61 FR 65873). However, the Corps seldom withholds authorization of an 
activity under nationwide permits unless the existence of a listed 
threatened or endangered species would be jeopardized. Activities that 
do not qualify for authorization under a nationwide permit, including 
projects that would result in more than minimal adverse environmental 
effects, either individually or cumulatively, may be authorized by an 
individual or regional general permit, which are typically subject to 
more extensive review. Regardless of the type of permit deemed 
necessary under section 404, rare species such as Santa Ana sucker may 
receive no special consideration with regard to conservation or 
protection unless they are listed under the Act.
    As part of the section 404 review process, we provide comments to 
the Corps on nationwide permits and individual permits. Our comments 
are only advisory, although procedures exist for elevating permit 
review within the agencies when disagreements between us and the Corps 
arise concerning the issuance of a permit. In practice, the section 404 
permit review process has often proven to be inadequate to protect 
unlisted but rare species such as the Santa Ana sucker.
    The Santa Ana sucker may receive a small amount of benefit from the 
possible presence of the least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) and 
southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) on the 
Santa Ana River. These two animals are federally listed species. 
However, this benefit is diminished because these species occupy 
different areas and habitats and have dissimilar ecological 
requirements from the Santa Ana sucker. Vireos and flycatchers occur in 
well-developed streamside vegetation. Santa Ana suckers inhabit streams 
that are generally small and shallow, and subject to periodic severe 
flooding. Overlapping range with these listed birds provides little, if 
any, protection for the Santa Ana sucker. The San Bernardino kangaroo 
rat (Dipodomys merriami parvus) is another federally listed species 
that occurs along the Santa Ana River; however, it occurs upstream from 
the present known range of the Santa Ana sucker. Therefore, the listing 
of the San Bernardino kangaroo rat will have little effect on the 
status or protection afforded the sucker.
    Similarly, critical habitat designation for the least Bell's vireo 
and southwestern willow flycatcher offers little direct benefit to the 
Santa Ana sucker because these birds occupy different areas and 
habitats and have dissimilar ecological requirements from the Santa Ana 
sucker. However, these designations may have discouraged some 
ecologically damaging projects in the floodplain from being proposed. 
This preventative effect may have benefitted the Santa Ana sucker.
    Forest Service lands encompass approximately 20 percent of the 
current known range of the Santa Ana sucker. Although a small portion 
of the range is within a designated wilderness area, the remaining 
portions of the range on Forest Service lands are not under wilderness 
management. Wilderness designation offers no direct regulatory 
protection to the sucker, but it does reduce some human induced impacts 
on the stream. For example, machines that require motors are excluded 
from these areas. This reduces or eliminates all motorized recreation 
and mining activities within the wilderness areas. These types of 
activities may harm Santa Ana sucker populations and thus wilderness 
designation offers some indirect benefit to the species. However, 
thousands of people from the Los Angeles metropolitan area and adjacent 
urban communities annually use both wilderness and nonwilderness areas 
within the Angeles National Forest's Big Tujunga Creek and San Gabriel 
Forks areas for recreation. The impact of the large number of people 
using these areas is destruction of streambank vegetation, streambank 
erosion, and the disposal of untreated human waste and other refuse 
into the creeks, all of which degrade water quality.
    The status and threats to the Santa Ana sucker reflect the 
inadequacy of existing Federal, State, and local ordinances and 
statutes to protect and provide for the conservation of this fish.
    E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence. Periodic wildfires may adversely affect Santa Ana suckers by 
causing direct mortality, eliminating vegetation that shades the water 
and moderates water temperature, or producing silt and ash laden runoff 
that can significantly increase the turbidity of rivers. Recent fires, 
including the 1996 Biedebach fire, burned near the vicinity of Prairie 
Fork on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. The fires did not burn 
the riparian corridor, but may contribute increased runoff and 
siltation to the creek.
    The high degree of fragmentation of the remaining Santa Ana sucker 
populations makes the species especially vulnerable to random events, 
environmental factors, and loss of genetic variability. A small 
population size increases the rate of inbreeding and may allow 
increased expression of deleterious recessive genes occurring in the 
population (known as inbreeding depression). Loss of genetic 
variability, through random genetic drift (random gene frequency 
changes in a small population due to chance), reduces the ability of 
small populations to respond successfully to environmental stresses. 
Most of the lowland river habitats have been lost and the remaining 
populations of Santa Ana suckers are low in numbers, with the exception 
of the San Gabriel Forks populations. Random events such as floods, 
variations of annual weather patterns, predation and associated 
demographic uncertainty (conditions affected by chance events, such as 
sex ratios, that influence survival and reproduction in small 
populations) or other environmental stresses and human-caused factors 
such as chemical spills, may lead to the demise of the remnant 
populations in the Los Angeles or Santa Ana basins.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by this species in determining to propose this rule. Based on 
this evaluation, the preferred action is to list the Santa Ana sucker 
(Catostomus santaanae) as threatened. While not in immediate danger of 
extinction, the Santa Ana sucker is

[[Page 3920]]

likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future if the 
present threats and declines continue. Based on this evaluation, the 
preferred action is to list the Santa Ana sucker (Catostomus santaanae) 
as threatened.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as: (I) The 
specific areas within the geographic area occupied by a species, at the 
time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those 
physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of 
the species and (II) that may require special management considerations 
or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the geographical area 
occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon a determination 
that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. 
``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and procedures needed to 
bring the species to the point at which listing under the Act is no 
longer necessary.
    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent 
and determinable, the Secretary designate critical habitat at the time 
the species is determined to be endangered or threatened. Service 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)) state that critical habitat is not 
determinable if information sufficient to perform required analysis of 
the impacts of the designation is lacking or if the biological needs of 
the species are not sufficiently well known to permit identification of 
an area as critical habitat. Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires us to 
consider economic and other relevant impacts of designating a 
particular area as critical habitat on the basis of the best scientific 
data available. The Secretary may exclude any area from critical 
habitat if he determines that the economic benefits of such exclusion 
outweigh the conservation benefits, unless to do such would result in 
the extinction of the species.
    We find that critical habitat is not determinable for the Santa Ana 
sucker at this time. When a ``not determinable'' finding is made, we 
must, within 2 years of the publication date of the original proposed 
rule, designate critical habitat, unless the designation is found to be 
not prudent.
    In designating critical habitat, we consider the following 
requirements of the species: space for individual and population growth 
and for normal behavior; food, water, air, light, minerals, or other 
nutritional or physiological requirements; cover or shelter; sites for 
breeding, reproduction, or rearing of offspring; and, generally, 
habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of 
the historic geographical and ecological distributions of this species 
(see 50 CFR 424.12(b)). In addition to these factors, we also focus on 
the known physical and biological features (primary constituent 
elements) within the designated area that are essential to the 
conservation of the species and may require special management 
considerations or protection. The essential features for the Santa Ana 
sucker may include, but are not limited to, spawning sites, food 
resources, and water quality and quantity (see 50 CFR 424.12(b)).
    Williams and Finnley (1977) stated that the most serious and 
frequent threat to a species' existence is alteration of its natural 
habitat. Changes come in various ways, but they generally are physical, 
chemical, or biological. In an aquatic ecosystem, the components 
including a species' primary constituent elements are so tightly 
intertwined that effects on one alter others. Physical changes are the 
most obvious; they include dams, water diversion structures, stream 
channelization and dredging, as well as sedimentation and turbidity 
from urban runoff. Chemical alteration from pollution such as 
industrial chemicals, pesticides, and high concentrations of nutrients 
cause damage to the aquatic environment, frequently upsetting the acid-
base aquatic balance and reducing levels of dissolved oxygen in the 
water column. Biological alterations can occur from introducing non-
native species into the habitat resulting in predation, competition, or 
hybridization, any of which may adversely affect a native species. In 
the case of the Santa Ana sucker, any one or combination of such 
physical, chemical, or biological changes may result in negative 
impacts to the primary constituent elements and exceed the 
environmental limitations of the species thereby reducing population 
numbers, decreasing reproductive success, or altering species 
distribution through habitat fragmentation.
    We conclude that there is insufficient knowledge and understanding 
of the biological needs and environmental limitations of the Santa Ana 
sucker and the primary constituent elements of its habitat to determine 
critical habitat for the fish. We think that the Santa Ana sucker is 
intolerant of highly polluted waters but little information is 
available concerning these possible limiting factors. Furthermore, in 
the Santa Ana River, suckers remain extant, although rare, in the 
lowlands where water quality is degraded as compared to the headwaters. 
We need additional information on the environmental limits of the 
sucker to enable us to accurately designate critical habitat for the 
Santa Ana sucker throughout its range. The physical and biological 
features including but not limited to water chemistry, water 
temperature, instream flows, streambed substrate and structure, and 
fauna and flora of the aquatic environment that supports the Santa Ana 
sucker are the features about which we need additional information. In 
an effort to gain these data, the Orange County Water District, the 
County of Orange, California, and the Los Angeles County Department of 
Public Works are working cooperatively with the National Fish and 
Wildlife Foundation, the Biological Resources Division of the United 
States Geologic Survey, and us to fund and implement research on the 
environmental limitations of the Santa Ana Sucker. The study will 
identify environmental parameters, including water quality (e.g., 
dissolved oxygen, turbidity, water chemistry, and water temperature) 
and some physical variables (e.g., flows, and streambed substrate and 
structure) associated with variations in population densities. If 
correlations are found, future research will focus on the variable(s) 
most likely to limit sucker populations.
    The study began in late 1998 and results should be available in 
2000. We will then reevaluate our knowledge of the species and, if 
determined prudent, propose critical habitat for the Santa Ana sucker. 
We will continue in our efforts to obtain more information on Santa Ana 
sucker biology and ecology, including distribution, population density, 
and essential habitat characteristics particularly in regard to water 
quality. We will use the information resulting from these efforts to 
identify measures needed to achieve conservation of the species, as 
defined under the Act.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing encourages and results in 
conservation actions by Federal, State, and private agencies, groups, 
and individuals. The Act provides for possible land acquisition and 
cooperation with the States and requires that recovery plans be 
developed for all listed species. The

[[Page 3921]]

protection required of Federal agencies are discussed, in part, below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, requires Federal agencies to 
evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed or 
listed as endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical 
habitat, if any is being designated. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
part 402. Section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to confer 
informally with us on any action that is likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of a federally listed species or result in 
destruction or adverse modification of its critical habitat. If a 
Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the 
responsible Federal agency must consult with us.
    Federal agencies expected to have involvement with section 7 
regarding the Santa Ana sucker include the Army Corps of Engineers and 
the Environmental Protection Agency because of their permit authority 
under section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The Forest Service will be 
involved through its activities on Angeles National Forest and Los 
Padres National Forest. These agencies either administer lands/waters 
containing the Santa Ana sucker or authorize, fund, or otherwise 
conduct activities that may affect this species.
    The Act and implementing regulations set forth a series of general 
prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all threatened wildlife not 
covered by a special rule. These prohibitions, codified at 50 CFR 17.21 
and 17.31, in part, make it illegal for any person subject to the 
jurisdiction of the United States to take (including harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or attempt 
any such conduct), import or export, transport in interstate or foreign 
commerce in the course of commercial activity, or sell or offer for 
sale in interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. It is also 
illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such 
wildlife that has been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to our 
agents and State conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving threatened wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations 
governing permits are at 50 CFR 17.32. Such permits are available for 
scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or survival of the 
species, and/or for incidental take in connection with otherwise lawful 
activities. For threatened species, permits also are available for 
zoological exhibition, educational purposes, or special purposes 
consistent with purposes of the Act.
    It is our policy, published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34272), to identify to the maximum extent practical at the time 
a species is listed those activities that would or would not constitute 
a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this policy is to 
increase public awareness of the effect of a listing on proposed and 
ongoing activities within a species' range. We believe the following 
actions would not likely result in a violation of section 9:
    (1) Existing discharges into waters supporting these species, 
provided these activities are carried out in accordance with existing 
regulations and permit requirements (e.g., activities subject to 
sections 402, 404, and 405 of the Clean Water Act including discharges 
regulated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System 
    (2) Actions that may affect the Santa Ana sucker and are 
authorized, funded or carried out by a Federal agency when the action 
is conducted in accordance with any reasonable and prudent measures 
given by us in accordance with section 7 of the Act.
    (3) Normal agricultural and silvicultural practices, including 
pesticide and herbicide use, that are carried out in accordance with 
any existing regulations, permit and label requirements, and best 
management practices.
    (4) Development and construction activities designed and 
implemented in accordance with State and local water quality 
    (5) Existing recreational activities, such as swimming, wading, 
canoeing, and fishing.
    (6) Possession, transport within or between States, and import and 
export of Santa Ana suckers that have not been sold or offered for sale 
and were legally collected prior to the date of publication in the 
Federal Register of the final regulation adding this taxa to the list 
of threatened and endangered species.
    Activities that we believe could potentially harm the Santa Ana 
sucker and result in a violation of section 9 of the Act include, but 
are not limited to:
    (1) Take of Santa Ana suckers without a permit, which includes 
harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, 
trapping, capturing, or collecting, or attempting any of these actions.
    (2) Possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship illegally 
taken Santa Ana suckers.
    (3) Unauthorized interstate and foreign commerce (commerce across 
state and international boundaries) and import/export.
    (4) Introduction of non-native species that compete or hybridize 
with, or prey on Santa Ana suckers.
    (5) Unauthorized destruction or alteration of Santa Ana sucker 
habitat by dredging, channelization, diversion, in-stream vehicle 
operation or rock removal, or other activities that result in the 
destruction or significant degradation of cover, channel stability, 
substrate composition, water quality, water temperature, and migratory 
corridors used by the species for foraging, cover, migration, and 
    (6) Discharges or dumping of toxic chemicals, silt, organic waste, 
or other pollutants (such as may result from mining, land development 
or land management activities) into waters supporting Santa Ana suckers 
that results in death or injury to the species or results in the 
destruction or degradation of cover, channel stability, substrate 
composition, water quality, water temperature, and migratory corridors 
used by the species for foraging, cover, migration, and spawning.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities may constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of 
the Service's Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 
section). Requests for copies of the regulations regarding listed 
wildlife and inquiries about prohibitions and permits may be addressed 
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, Endangered 
Species Permits, 911 N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181 
(telephone 503/231-6241; facsimile 503/231-6243)

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 

agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule. Comments particularly are sought 
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threat (or lack thereof) to this species;
    (2) The location of any additional occurrences of this species and 
the reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined to be 
critical habitat pursuant to section 4 of the Act;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of this species;

[[Page 3922]]

    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the Santa Ana sucker or its habitat;
    (5) Information regarding the introduction of the Santa Clara River 
population and the role it may play in the recovery of this species.
    We will take into consideration your comments and any additional 
information received on this species when making a final determination 
regarding this proposal. The final determination may differ from this 
proposal based upon the information we receive.
    You may request a public hearing on this proposal. Your request for 
a hearing must be made in writing and filed within 45 days of the date 
of publication of this proposal in the Federal Register. Address your 
request to the Field Supervisor of the Service's Carlsbad Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Executive Order 12866

    Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to write regulations that 
are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make this 
proposal easier to understand including answers to questions such as 
the following: (1) Is the discussion in the ``Supplementary 
Information'' section of the preamble helpful in understanding the 
proposal? (2) Does the proposal contain technical language or jargon 
that interferes with its clarity? (3) Does the format of the proposal 
(grouping and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) 
aid or reduce its clarity? What else could we do to make the proposal 
easier to understand?
    Send a copy of any comments that concern how we could make this 
notice easier to understand to: Office of Regulatory Affairs, 
Department of the Interior, Room 7229, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, 
DC 20240. You may also e-mail the comments to: Exsec@ios.doi.gov.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that Environmental Assessments and Environmental 
Impact Statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in connection 
with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. A notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination was published in the 
Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information other 
than those already approved under the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq., and assigned Office of Management and Budget 
clearance number 1018-0094. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a 
person is not required to respond to a collection of information, 
unless it displays a currently valid control number. For additional 
information concerning permit and associated requirements for 
threatened species, see 50 CFR 17.32.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 
    Author: The primary author of this document is Dr. Paul J. Barrett, 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see 
ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
record keeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, the Service proposes to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise noted.

    2. Amend Sec. 17.11(h) by adding the following, in alphabetical 
order under FISHES, to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife:

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                        SPECIES                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                       population  where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered  or        Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened

                                              *         *         *         *         *         *         *

                                              *         *         *         *         *         *         *
Sucker,..........................  Catostomus .........  U.S.A. (CA)........  Los Angeles,.......  T                                     NA           NA
Santa Ana........................  santaanae ..........                       San Gabriel,.......
                                                                              and Santa Ana......
                                                                              River basins.......
                                              *         *         *         *         *         *         *

[[Page 3923]]

    Dated: January 14, 1999
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-1700 Filed 1-25-99; 8:45 am]