[Federal Register: September 3, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 171)]
[Page 48412-48413]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Arnaudo Brothers, 
Wathen-Castanos, Kaufman and Broad Development Sites in Merced County, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: The partnership of Arnaudo Brothers and the public 
corporations of Wathen-Castanos and Kaufman and Broad (collectively, 
the Applicants) have applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service for an 
incidental take permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The Service proposes to 
issue a 5-year permit to the Applicants that would authorize take of 
the San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) (kit fox) incidental 
to otherwise lawful activities. Such take would occur during the 
development of 170 acres of nonnative grassland and dry-farmed fields 
for residential and other uses. This project would permanently 
eliminate 170 acres of suitable habitat for the kit fox.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application, and 
an Environmental Assessment, which are available for review. The permit 
application includes the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) and 
an accompanying Implementing Agreement. The Plan describes the proposed 
project and the measures that the Applicant would undertake to minimize 
and mitigate take of the kit fox.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act regulations (40 CFR 
1506.6). All comments received, including names and addresses, will 
become part of the official administrative record and may be made 
available to the public.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before October 4, 

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be addressed to Mr. Wayne White, 
Field Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, 
Sacramento, California 95825. Comments may be sent by facsimile to 
(916) 414-6710.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Ann Chrisney, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address or call (916) 414-6600.


Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of these documents for review by contacting 
the above office. Documents also will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 


    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act and Federal regulation 
prohibit the ``take'' of fish or wildlife species listed as endangered 
or threatened, respectively. Take of listed fish or wildlife is defined 
under the Act to include kill, harm, or harass. The Service may, under 
limited circumstances, issue permits to authorize incidental take; 
i.e., take that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, the carrying 
out of an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing incidental 
take permits for threatened and endangered species are found in 50 CFR 
17.32 and 17.22, respectively.
    The Applicants have proposed four project sites for development 
within the Santa Nella Community Specific Plan Area. All of the project 
sites are located between Interstate 5 and the San Luis Reservoir in 
western Merced County, California. Typical land uses in the area 
surrounding the project sites are dryland farming, grazing and some 
residential development. The California Aqueduct and Delta-Mendota 
Canals are adjacent to the project sites. The San Luis Reservoir and 
O'Neill Forebay are west of the project sites. The Applicants propose 
the following land uses at the project sites: residential development, 
some commercial development, and open space community parks. The 
proposed number of home sites per acre range from 3.2 to 5.5.
    Biologists surveyed the project sites for special-status plants and 
wildlife in 1998. Based on these surveys and previous knowledge of the 
area, the Service concluded that the project may result in the take of 
one federally listed species, the endangered San Joaquin kit fox.
    The Applicants propose to implement the following measures to 
minimize and mitigate take of the San Joaquin kit fox: (1) conduct 
surveys and implement avoidance measures before and during construction 
activities; and (2) mitigate the loss of habitat at a 3:1 ratio 
(mitigation:impact) by purchasing a conservation easement for, or fee 
title to, 510 acres of off-site suitable kit fox habitat in the Santa 
Nella region. The Applicants will finance the off-site mitigation by 
establishing a Kit Fox Mitigation Account to be held by an appropriate 
    The Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of two alternatives in addition to the Proposed Project 
Alternative. The Proposed Project Alternative consists of the issuance 
of an incidental take permit and implementation of the Plan and its 
implementing Agreement, which includes measures to minimize and 
mitigate impacts of the project on the San Joaquin kit fox. Under the 
No Action Alternative, the Service would issue a permit and the project 
area would continue to be dry-land farmed, remain as nonnative 
grassland or be converted to irrigated row crops with the possibility 
of future adjacent development. This alternative would result in less 
habitat value for the kit fox than the off-site mitigation proposed 
under the Proposed Project Alternative. We also considered a Reduced 
Density Alternative. Compared to the Proposed Project, this alternative 
did not provide any significantly improved on-site habitat for kit fox.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 

[[Page 48413]]

Act and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 regulations (40 
CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the application, associated documents, 
and comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application 
meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act 
regulations and section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act. If we 
determine that those requirements are met, we will issue a permit to 
the Applicants for the incidental take of the San Joaquin kit fox. Our 
final permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days from the date 
of this notice.

    Dated: August 27, 1999.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 99-22987 Filed 9-2-99; 8:45 am]