[Federal Register: February 28, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 39)]
[Page 10536-10537]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of a Habitat Conservation Plan and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit by Union Pacific Rail Road 
Company for the Sacramento Rail Yard Project, Sacramento County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: The Union Pacific Rail Road Company (Union Pacific) has 
applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service (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 2-year permit 
to Union Pacific that would authorize take of the threatened valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) 
incidental to otherwise lawful activities. Such take would occur during 
the remediation of contaminated soils at Union Pacific's 240-acre 
Sacramento Rail Yard (Rail Yard) in downtown Sacramento, Sacramento 
County, California. Remediation of the contaminated soils at the Rail 
Yard would result in the loss of 87 elderberry plants with 261 stems 
which provide habitat for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application, 
which is available for review. The application includes a Habitat 
Conservation Plan (Plan). The Plan describes the proposed project and 
the measures that Union Pacific will undertake to minimize and mitigate 
take of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    We also request comments on our preliminary determination that the 
Plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' Habitat Conservation Plan, eligible 
for a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy 
Act. The basis for this determination is discussed in an Environmental 
Action Statement, which is also available for public review.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before March 29, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Mr. Wayne White, Field Supervisor, 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, 
California 95825-1486. Comments may be sent by facsimile to 916-414-

Conservation Planning Division, at the above address or call (916) 414-


Availability of Documents

    Please contact the above office if you would like copies of the 
application, Plan, and Environmental Action Statement. Documents also 
will be available for review by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.


    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 Sacramento Rail Yard occupies approximately 240 acres and is 
located at 401 I Street in Sacramento, California. It lies immediately 
north of the present downtown area, near the confluence of the 
Sacramento and American Rivers. The Rail Yard has served as the 
principal locomotive maintenance and rebuilding facility since 1863. 
The Rail Yard has been designated a state Superfund site by the 
California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic 
Substances Control (Department), due to the presence of heavy metals, 
primarily lead, in the soil. To comply with the California Health and 
Safety Code, the Department has directed Union Pacific to remediate the 
site. The remedial actions for

[[Page 10537]]

contaminated soils at the Rail Yard include excavation, containment, 
treatment, recycling, and disposal technologies. These remediation 
activities will require the removal of all vegetation at the Rail Yard, 
including the elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) food plant of the valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle.
    In 1998 and 1999, biologists surveyed the project area for special-
status wildlife and plant species that could be affected by the 
project. Based upon those surveys, the Service concluded the project 
may result in take of one federally listed species, the threatened 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
    Union Pacific has agreed to mitigate take of the valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle by the purchase of 146 habitat units for the beetle 
from a mitigation bank approved by the Service for such mitigation. One 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle mitigation unit may consist of as 
many as 5 elderberry seedlings and 5 additional associated native 
species, which are planted within an 1,800 square foot area. We 
determined that a total of 728 seedlings would be required to mitigate 
for the 261 elderberry stems greater than 1 inch that would be taken. 
Thus, the number of mitigation credits that Union Pacific would need to 
purchase is 146, which is determined by dividing the total number of 
required replacement elderberries by the number of elderberries in one 
unit. The 146 habitat units have been purchased from Wildlands, Inc., 
located in Placer County, California.
    The Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take 
permit and implementation of the Plan to mitigate impacts of the 
project on the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Two alternatives to 
the taking of listed species under the Proposed Action are considered 
in the Plan.
    Under the No Action Alternative, no permit would be issued. 
However, while this alternative would avoid impacts to the elderberry 
plants at the Rail Yard, the No Action Alternative is unacceptable as 
it does not comply with the state of California's Health and Safety 
Code as well as the directive from the Department to remediate the 
contaminated soils.
    Under the Reduced Take Alternative the proposed remediation efforts 
would be reduced or limited to certain portions of the Rail Yard, 
thereby allowing some undetermined number of elderberry plants to 
remain. Even though this alternative might avoid impacts to some of the 
elderberry plants on site, the likelihood of valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle occupancy in the remaining elderberries would be reduced as the 
area becomes more urbanized. Furthermore, this alternative does not 
comply with the laws of the state of California, which require a state-
recognized Superfund site, such as the Rail Yard, to be remediated.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the Plan 
qualifies as a ``low-effect'' plan as defined by its Habitat 
Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). Determination of low-
effect habitat conservation plans is based on the following three 
criteria: (1) Implementation of the Plan would result in minor or 
negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate species 
and their habitats; (2) implementation of the Plan would result in 
minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; 
and (3) impacts of the Plan, considered together with the impacts of 
other past, present and reasonably foreseeable similarly situated 
projects would not result, over time, in cumulative effects to 
environmental values or resources which would be considered 
significant. As more fully explained in the Service's Environmental 
Action Statement, the Union Pacific Sacramento Rail Yard Plan qualifies 
as a ``low-effect'' plan for the following reasons:
    1. Approval of the Plan would result in minor or negligible effects 
on the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and its habitat. The Service 
does not anticipate significant direct or cumulative effects to the 
valley elderberry longhorn beetle resulting from the soil remediation 
project at the Rail Yard.
    2. Approval of the Plan would not have adverse effects on unique 
geographic, historic or cultural sites, or involve unique or unknown 
environmental risks.
    3. Approval of the Plan would not result in any cumulative or 
growth inducing impacts and, therefore, would not result in significant 
adverse effects on public health or safety.
    4. The project does not require compliance with Executive Order 
11988 (Floodplain Management), Executive Order 11990 (Protection of 
Wetlands), or the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, nor does it 
threaten to violate a Federal, State, local or tribal law or 
requirement imposed for the protection of the environment.
    5. Approval of the Plan would not establish a precedent for future 
action or represent a decision in principle about future actions with 
potentially significant environmental effects.
    The Service therefore has made a preliminary determination that 
approval of the Plan qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the 
National Environmental Policy Act, as provided by the Department of the 
Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). Based 
upon this preliminary determination, we do not intend to prepare 
further National Environmental Policy Act documentation. The Service 
will consider public comments in making its final determination on 
whether to prepare such additional documentation.
    The Service provides this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the 
Act. We will evaluate the permit application, the Plan, and comments 
submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements are met, 
the Service will issue a permit to the Union Pacific Rail Road Company 
for incidental take of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle during 
soil remediation of the Rail Yard. We will make the final permit 
decision no sooner than 30 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: February 18, 2000.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 00-4563 Filed 2-25-00; 8:45 am]