[Federal Register: May 19, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 98)]
[Page 31925-31926]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of Final Environmental Impact Statement for the 
Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit for High Desert Power 
Project, Victorville, San Bernardino County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior (Lead Agency); Bureau of 
Land Management, Interior, Air Force, Corps of Engineers, Army 
(Cooperating Agencies).

ACTION: Notice of availability of a final environmental impact 


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public of the availability of the 
Final Environmental Impact Statement on the application to incidentally 
take the threatened Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) and the Mohave 
ground squirrel (Spermophilis mohavensis), a species listed as 
threatened by the State of California. The High Desert Power Project 
Limited Liability Company (Applicant) has applied to the Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service) for a 50-year incidental take permit 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended (Act). This notice is provided pursuant to section 10 of the 
Act and National Environmental Policy Act Regulation (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES: A Record of Decision and permit decision will occur no sooner 
than 30 days from this notice.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the incidental take permit application materials 
and Final Environmental Impact Statement are available for review at 
the following government offices and libraries:
    Government Offices--Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Field 
Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003, (805) 
644-1766; and the Bureau of Land Management, Barstow Field Office, 2601 
Barstow Road, Barstow, California 92311, (760) 252-6000.
    Libraries--California State Library, Information and Reference 
Center, 914 Capital Mall, Room 301, Sacramento, California 95814, (916) 
654-0261; San Bernardino County Library, Adelanto Branch, 11744 
Bartlett Avenue, Adelanto, California 92301, (760) 246-5661; and the 
San Bernardino County Library, Victorville Branch, 15011 Circle Drive, 
Victorville, California 92392, (760) 245-4222.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. George Walker, Fish and Wildlife 
Service Biologist, Barstow, California, at (760) 255-8852.



    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. That is, no one 
may harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or 
collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in such conduct (16 
USC 1538). Under limited circumstances, the Service, however, may issue 
permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed animal species 
(defined by the Act as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity). Regulations 
governing permits for endangered and threatened species, respectively, 
are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22.
    The High Desert Power Project Limited Liability Company seeks an 
incidental take permit for the threatened desert tortoise, and for the 
Mohave ground squirrel should it be listed under the Act during the 
term of the permit. Take of these species would be incidental to the 
High Desert Power Project. The Applicant proposes to construct, operate 
and maintain a 680-to 830-megawatt natural gas-fueled electricity 
generation power plant on a 25-acre site located in the northeast 
corner of the Southern California Logistics Airport, formerly a part of 
George Air Force Base, in the City of Victorville, San Bernardino 
County, California. The Applicant proposes to use an additional 24-acre 
area for construction staging. The proposed project also includes the 
construction, operation and maintenance of 7 water injection/extraction 
wells within the Mojave River watershed; 2 water supply pipelines (one 
approximately 2.5 miles in length and the other approximately

[[Page 31926]]

6.5 miles in length); 2 natural gas supply pipelines (one approximately 
3.5 miles in length and the other approximately 32 miles in length); 
and a 7-mile-long electrical transmission line.
    Construction of the Power Project and associated facilities would 
result in short-term, long-term, and permanent disturbances to desert 
tortoise and Mohave ground squirrel habitat. The Power Project would 
disturb approximately 630.2 acres of habitat, with approximately 244.1 
acres of short-term disturbance and 386.1 acres of long-term and/or 
permanent disturbance.
    The Applicant proposes to minimize and/or mitigate for impacts 
associated with the Power Project, in part, by conducting pre-
construction surveys of proposed work areas and construction zones, and 
by developing an employee and contractor education program that would 
describe allowable practices when constructing in desert tortoise and 
Mohave ground squirrel habitat area. The Applicant would revegetate 
habitat disturbed during construction, operation, maintenance, and/or 
decommissioning activities in accordance with an approved plan. As 
compensation for impacts to habitat on private land, the Applicant 
would ensure the protection in perpetuity of 1,242.8 acres of off-site 
mitigation lands or habitat credits, having habitat value for both 
desert tortoises and Mohave ground squirrels that is at least as great 
as the value of the habitat being impacted. The number of compensation 
acres was developed based on an agency-approved formula which assesses 
the categories of previous and potential disturbance, the condition and 
classification of the impacted habitat, and potential impacts to 
adjacent habitat. To mitigate for impacts to desert tortoise and Mohave 
ground squirrel associated with construction and operation of this gas 
pipeline, the Applicant proposes that funding for restoration 
activities may be provided either in lieu of or in combination with the 
purchase of compensation lands or habitat credits.
    In addition to issuance of an incidental take permit by the 
Service, High Desert Power Project Limited Liability Company has 
requested other federal authorizations for the proposed project. The 
company seeks Nationwide Permit No. 12 authorizations by the Army Corps 
of Engineers, pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, for 
pipeline crossings of waters of the United States. The company also 
seeks a right-of-way grant from the Bureau of Land Management pursuant 
to Section 28 of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, to authorize 
construction, operation and maintenance of the 32-mile natural gas 
pipeline. The U.S. Air Force has Federal land management authority over 
the lands located within the former George Air Force Base. The High 
Desert Power Project Limited Liability Company and Victor Valley 
Economic Development Authority have jointly requested that the Air 
Force act to supplement its prior environmental record and to authorize 
specifically the uses of the former George Air Force Base lands 
proposed for the High Desert Power Project by way of an addendum to an 
existing lease agreement between the Air Force and Victor Valley 
Economic Development Authority. Additionally, the High Desert Power 
Project Limited Liability Company has requested that the Air Force 
grant easements authorizing the use of certain Federal lands adjacent 
to the former George Air Force Base for the construction, operation and 
maintenance of linear features of the High Desert Power Project.
    On December 30, 1998, a notice was published in the Federal 
Register (63 FR 71940) announcing that the Service would take the lead 
in preparing an Environmental Impact Statement addressing the Federal 
actions associated with the High Desert Power Project. The Bureau of 
Land Management, U.S. Air Force and the Army Corps of Engineers may use 
this Environmental Impact Statement as the basis for their separate 
Federal decisions.
    The Draft Environmental Impact Statement analyzed the potential 
environmental impacts that may result from the Federal actions 
requested in support of the proposed development of the High Desert 
Power Project, and identified various alternatives, including the No 
Action Alternative (no incidental take permit), the Combined Cycle 
Power Plant with Dry Cooling Alternative, and various alternatives 
proposing the power plant be located in different locations. Several of 
these alternatives would reduce the amount of habitat disturbance and 
levels of take of threatened and endangered species compared to the 
Proposed Project Alternative but would have potentially greater adverse 
effects on other resources such as air quality, land use, views, and 
geological hazards. Five comment letters, totaling 16 individual 
comments, were received on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. A 
response to each comment has been included in Final Environmental 
Impact Statement.
    The analysis provided in the Final Environmental Impact Statement 
is intended to accomplish the following: inform the public of the 
proposed action; address public comments received on the Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement; disclose the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative environmental effects of the proposed actions; and indicate 
any irreversible commitment of resources that would result from 
implementation of the proposed action.

Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 00-12348 Filed 5-18-00; 8:45 am]