[Federal Register: December 16, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 241)]
[Page 70275-70277]
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 Pacific Bay 
Properties, Rancho Bella Vista Master Planned Community in Riverside 
County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


[[Page 70276]]

SUMMARY: Pacific Bay Properties (the Applicant) has 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 30-year permit to the Applicant that would 
authorize take of up to 14 species, including the threatened coastal 
California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californicus californicus). Such 
take would occur during the development and management of 1,998 single 
family residences, associated schools, recreational facilities, and 
open space on 798 acres. This project would permanently eliminate 102.2 
acres of suitable habitat for the 14 species: 8.9 acres of Riversidean 
sage scrub, 59.2 acres of disturbed Riversidean sage scrub, 0.5 acre of 
willow riparian woodland, 3.5 acres of southern willow scrub, 0.4 acre 
of disturbed southern willow scrub, and 29.7 acres of non-native 
    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 14 species.
    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 administrative record and may be made available to 
the public.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before January 18, 

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be addressed to Mr. Jim Bartel, 
Assistant Field Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker 
Avenue West, Carlsbad, California 92008. Comments may be sent by 
facsimile to (760) 431-9624.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Michelle Shaughnessy, Fish and 
Wildlife Biologist, at the above address or call (760) 431-9440.


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 Applicant's proposed project lies within the Rancho Bella Vista 
Community Specific Plan Area. The Specific Plan Area is located between 
State Route 79 (Winchester Road) and Lake Skinner Reservoir in western 
Riverside County, California. The Southwestern Riverside Multiple 
Species Reserve and Lake Skinner Recreation Area are east of the 
project site. The project site includes the Skunk Hollow vernal pool 
and portions of Tucalota Creek. Typical land uses in the area 
surrounding the project site are dryland farming, grazing, a small 
airport, and residential development. The Applicant proposes the 
following land uses at the project site: residential development, 
schools, recreational facilities, and open space.
    The Plan relies on biological data collected from a number of 
reports and surveys of the project site dating from 1989 through 1998. 
Based on these surveys and reports, the Service concluded that the 
project may result in the take of federally listed wildlife, harm to 
listed plants, or take of other species should they be listed in the 

Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californicus 
californicus), threatened
Last Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), endangered
Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus woottoni), endangered
Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino), endangered
Spreading navarretia (Navarretia fossalis), endangered
Thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia), threatened
California Orcutt grass (Orcuttia californica), endangered
Munz's onion (Allium munzii), endangered
San Diego ambrosia (Ambrosia pumila), candidate for listing
Western spadefoot toad (Spea hammondii)
Southwestern pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata pallida)
Burrowing owl (Speotyto cunicularia)
Southern California rufous-crowned sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps 
Bell's sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli belli)

    The Applicant proposes to implement the following measures to 
minimize and mitigate take of endangered species: (1) Preserve 90.4 
acres of Riversidean sage scrub (91 percent of on-site acreage of this 
vegetation type) and 28.8 acres of disturbed Riversidean sage scrub (33 
percent of on-site acreage), resulting in preservation of at least 4 of 
5 pairs of coastal California gnatcatchers; and (2) Preserve 6.2 acres 
of riparian and wetland habitats (58 percent of on-site acreage). In 
addition, the Applicant has already established a 140-acre wetland 
conservation bank. The Plan identifies goals and objectives for 
management and conservation of the 14 species, including control of 
human access and exotics species, preservation of upland and wetland 
habitats, provision of open space connections through the development 
area, enhancement of Quino checkerspot butterfly habitat, and 
restoration of riparian habitats.
    The Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of four 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 include measures to minimize and mitigate 
impacts of the project on the 14 species. Under the No Action 
Alternative, the Service would not issue a permit and the project area 
would remain undeveloped.
    Existing agricultural practices would likely be maintained on the 
property. The Applicant considered and rejected this alternative 
because elimination of the proposed development would also eliminate 
dedication and management of lands in the Conservation Bank as well as 
other open space areas proposed by the proposed Project Alternative. 
The Applicant also considered and rejected a Reduced Project 
Alternative and a Wetland Avoidance Alternative. Although both of these 
alternatives would have increased open space compared to the Proposed 
Project, the Applicant did not select them because the loss of 
additional residences would increase per unit construction cost beyond 
what is consistent with lot costs in the region.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species 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

[[Page 70277]]

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 Applicant for the incidental take of the abovementioned listed 
species. Our final permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days 
from the date of this notice.

    Dated: December 10, 1999.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 99-32575 Filed 12-15-99; 8:45 am]