[Federal Register: December 5, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 234)]
[Page 75946-75948]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and 
Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Metro 
Air Park Project in the Natomas Basin, Sacramento County, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY: The Metro Air Park Property Owners Association (Association) 
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 (Act). The Association, a 
non-profit mutual benefit corporation, has applied on behalf of 138 
individual property owners within the Metro Air Park 1,892-acre Special 
Planning Area who wish to pursue development of urban uses and rice 
farming on these lands. The development area is in the Natomas Basin, 
Sacramento County, California, with associated mitigation lands for 
Metro Air Park development within Sacramento and Sutter Counties, 
California. The proposed permit would authorize incidental take of 
three federally listed species. The proposed taking of these species 
would be incidental to the implementation of the Metro Air Park Habitat 
Conservation Plan (Plan), which provides for the development of the 
Metro Air Park industrial park project along with the continuation of 
rice farming activities. The proposed permit also would authorize 
future incidental take of 10 currently unlisted species, should any of 
them become listed under the Act during the life of the permit. The 
proposed permit duration is 50 years. The permit application, available 
for public review, includes the Plan which describes the proposed 
program and mitigation, and an accompanying Implementing Agreement.
    The Service also announces the availability of a Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement for the incidental take permit 
application. All comments received, including names and addresses, will 
become part of the official administrative record and may be made 
available to the public.
    Public Meeting: A public meeting wi]ll be held on January 8, 2001, 
from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the County of Sacramento, Hearing Room 1, 700 
H Street, Sacramento, California, 95814. For additional meeting 
information, contact Ms. Vicki Campbell, Chief, Conservation

[[Page 75947]]

Planning Division at (916) 414-6600. Oral and written comments will be 
received at the meeting.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before February 6, 

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to the Field Supervisor, Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage 
Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825. Written comments may be sent 
by facsimile to (916) 414-6711.

Conservation Planning Division, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES); telephone: (916) 414-6600.


Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing copies of the application, Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement, Plan, and Implementing Agreement should immediately 
contact the Service by telephone at (916) 414-6600 or by letter to the 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. Copies of the Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement, Plan, and Implementing Agreement also are available 
for public inspection, during regular business hours, at the Sacramento 
Fish and Wildlife Office; State Library, 914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento, 
CA; the State Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento, CA; and the State 
Library, 1620 W. El Camino Avenue, Sacramento, CA.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. Take is defined 
under the Act as harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture or collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in such 
conduct (16 U.S.C. 1538). However, under limited circumstances, the 
Service may issue permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed 
animal species. ``Incidental take'' is defined by the Act as take that 
is incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out of an otherwise 
lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for threatened species 
and endangered species, respectively, are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 


    The Association seeks a permit for take of the following federally 
listed species: the threatened giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas), 
threatened Aleutian Canada goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia), and 
threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus 
dimorphus). This take would be incidental to urban development of the 
Metro Air Park industrial park project and from rice farming activities 
within the 1,892-acre Special Planning Area and on 119 acres of lands 
outside the Special Planning Area in Sacramento County, California. The 
proposed permit would also authorize future incidental take of the 
currently unlisted Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni), greater sandhill 
crane (Grus canadensis tubida), bank swallow (Riparia riparia), 
tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), northwestern pond turtle 
(Clemmys marmorata marmorata), white-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi), 
loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), burrowing owl (Athene 
cunicularia), delta tule pea (Lathyrus jepsonii ssp. jepsonii), and 
Sanford's arrowhead (Sagittaria sanfordii) should any of these species 
become listed under the Act during the life of the permit. 
Collectively, the 13 listed and unlisted species are referred to as the 
``covered species'' for the Association's Plan.
    The Metro Air Park Special Planning Area comprises 1,892 acres 
within the Natomas Basin in Sacramento County, California. Agriculture 
is the dominant land use in the Natomas Basin and on the Metro Air Park 
site. The predominant crops are rice, corn, sugar beets, grain, 
tomatoes, and pasture. Natural and uncultivated vegetation types are 
interspersed throughout the agricultural areas of the Natomas Basin. 
Natural areas are found primarily along irrigation canals, drainage 
ditches, pastures, and uncultivated fields. The borders of drainage 
canals are often associated with narrow strips of emergent vegetation 
and/or wooded riparian areas.
    Portions of the Natomas Basin that are within the jurisdiction of 
the City of Sacramento are included in the Natomas Basin Habitat 
Conservation Plan which was completed by the City of Sacramento in 
November, 1997. The Metro Air Park Project is described in the Natomas 
Basin Habitat Conservation Plan, but because the Metro Air Park Project 
is outside of the City limit lines, the project cannot be covered by 
the City's incidental take permit. Therefore, the Association is 
seeking a separate incidental take permit for the Metro Air Park 
project. Take could occur as a result of urban development of the Metro 
Air Park industrial park project and from rice farming activities.
    Under the Plan, the Association proposes to minimize and mitigate 
the effects of urban development by participating in the basin-wide 
conservation program set up for the entire Natomas Basin which is 
described in the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. The focus of 
this basin-wide conservation program is the preservation, enhancement, 
and restoration of ecological communities which support species 
associated with the wetland and upland habitats. Through the payment of 
development fees, one-half acre of mitigation land would be established 
for every acre of land developed within the Plan area. The mitigation 
land would be acquired and managed by the Natomas Basin Conservancy, a 
non-profit conservation organization established to implement the 
Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. Mitigation fee amounts and the 
mitigation strategy for the Plan would be subject to the same 
adjustments required under the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. 
To mitigate for the loss of Swainson's hawk nest trees on-site, the 
Association will secure 200 contiguous acres, in perpetuity, and 
transfer the lands to the Natomas Basin Conservancy to manage them for 
the benefit of Swainson's hawk. The Plan also includes take avoidance 
and minimization measures that include the requirement for landowners 
to conduct pre-construction surveys for covered species and to carry 
out minimization measures prior to site development.
    The Plan will be implemented by the Association with assistance 
from the County of Sacramento and environmental consultants. The 
Natomas Basin Conservancy will serve as the Plan Operator, receive 
mitigation fees from the County, and be responsible for using the fees 
to acquire and manage habitat lands in accordance with the Plan.
    Funding for the Plan will be financed through a combination of 
development fees charged at the time grading permits are issued, Mello-
Roos Community Facilities District bond proceeds, and Property Owners 
    The Draft Environmental Impact Statement considers four 
alternatives, including the Proposed Action and the No-Action/No Take 
Alternative. Under the No-Action/No Take Alternative, no section 
10(a)(1)(B) permit would be issued for take of listed species during 
urban development and other activities in the Plan area. Landowners 
within the Plan area would continue to apply for individual incidental 
take permits on a case-by-case basis.
    The Increased Mitigation Ratio Alternative examines the 
environmental effects of applying a higher mitigation ratio for 
addressing impacts to the giant garter snake and the Swainson's hawk 
than is required under the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan and 
the proposed Plan. This alternative would

[[Page 75948]]

require a site-specific analysis of habitat values in order to 
determine specific mitigation obligations.
    The Reduced Development Alternative would result in reduced 
development of the Metro Air Park site. The 18-hole golf course 
situated on approximately 279 acres would be reduced to a 140-acre 9-
hole golf course. This would reallocate 140 acres on-site for the 
creation of habitat as a mitigation area for covered species.
    The analysis provided in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement 
is intended to accomplish the following: inform the public of the 
proposed action and alternatives; address public comments received 
during the scoping period; disclose the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative environmental effects of the proposed action and each of the 
alternatives; and indicate any irreversible commitment of resources 
that would result from implementation of the proposed action.
    The Service invites the public to comment on the Plan and Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement during a 60-day public comment period. 
This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and Service regulations for implementing the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). The Service will 
evaluate the application, associated documents, and comments submitted 
thereon to prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement. A permit 
decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after the publication of 
the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

    Dated: November 28, 2000.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 00-30837 Filed 12-4-00; 8:45 am]