[Federal Register: December 3, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 232)]
[Page 60219-60220]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and an Application 
for an Incidental Take Permit for the Temecula Ridge Apartments and 
Temecula Village Development Projects in Riverside County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: AGK Group, LLC and Temecula Village Development, L.P. (the 
Applicants) have applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for 
incidental take permits pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The Service is considering 
issuance of a 7-year permit to each Applicant that would authorize take 
of the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila 
californica californica) incidental to otherwise lawful activities. 
Such take would occur during the construction of multi-family 
residential structures and associated commercial/retail space on a 44-
acre infill site adjacent to Rancho California Road in the City of 
Temecula in southwestern Riverside County, California. We request 
comments from the public on the permit application, and an 
Environmental Assessment, both of which are available for review. The 
permit application includes the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan 
(HCP) and an accompanying Implementing Agreement (legal contract). The 
HCP describes the proposed action and the measures that the Applicants 
would undertake to minimize and mitigate take of the coastal California 

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before February 1, 

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker Avenue West, 
Carlsbad, California 92008. You also may send comments by facsimile to 
(760) 431-5902.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen Evans, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, 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 
address and at the Temecula Library located at 41000 County Center 
Drive, Temecula, California.


    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (Act) and federal 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of fish or wildlife species listed as 
endangered or threatened. Take of listed fish or wildlife is defined 
under the Act to include ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shot, wound, 
kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such 
conduct.'' 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.
    The Applicants are proposing development of multi-family 
residential structures (containing a total of 406 residential units) 
and associated commercial and retail space on 44 acres. The development 
site is an infill area within the City surrounded by a combination of 
multi-family and single family residential complexes.
    Biologists surveyed the combined project site for biological 
resources in 1999 and 2000. Two years of protocol surveys for Quino 
checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino) were conducted, but no 
sign of the species was detected. Two pairs of coastal California 
gnatcatchers were found in 2000. Given the limited amount of sage scrub 
habitat available for these two pairs on this infill site (14 acres), 
it is presumed that the two pairs are also utilizing, to some degree, 
portions of the remaining 30 acres, which consist of non-native 
grassland, ruderal vegetation, and barren areas.
    Based on the survey results, the Service concluded that 
implementation of the two proposed projects would result in take of the 
two pairs of gnatcatchers found on this infill site, through the 
permanent removal of the vegetation on the 44 acres of this combined 
site: 14 acres of riversidean sage scrub, and 30 acres of non-native 
grassland and ruderal vegetation. Environmental effects addressed in 
the HCP and Environmental Assessment include the loss of both pairs of 
gnatcatchers given the removal of the vegetation from the site.
    The Applicants propose to implement the following measures to 
mitigate and minimize take of coastal California gnatcatchers: (1) 
Avoid ground disturbing activities during the California gnatcatcher 
breeding season; (2) stake the construction boundaries of the project; 
(3) random inspections of the project site by a biological monitor; (4) 
purchase conservation credits for 45 acres of riversidean sage scrub 
occupied by two pairs of gnatcatchers from an off-site mitigation bank 
in the Riverside County area; and (5) purchase an additional 25 acres 
of riversidean sage scrub conservation credits from another

[[Page 60220]]

off-site mitigation bank in the Riverside County area. Both 
conservation banks possess a management endowment to ensure their 
permanent management for sensitive species and habitats, including the 
California gnatcatcher.
    The Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of four alternatives, including the Proposed Action. The 
Proposed Action consists of the issuance of two incidental take permits 
and implementation of the HCP and its Implementing Agreement, which 
includes measures to minimize and mitigate impacts of the two projects 
on the coastal California gnatcatcher. Under the ``No Action'' 
alternative, the Service would not issue a permit to either Applicant. 
Under this alternative, the proposed residential developments would not 
be constructed at this time. Both pairs of gnatcatchers may still be 
lost over time because the small isolated project site is not well-
suited to the long term preservation of gnatcatcher pairs. 
Contributions to more permanent gnatcatcher preservation efforts in the 
region (through participation in regional conservation mitigation 
banks) would not occur.
    Under the ``Reduced Project'' alternative, one of the two multi-
family residential projects would not receive an incidental take 
permit. One of the applicants would not develop their property at this 
time. The other project would receive a permit. It is likely that both 
gnatcatcher pairs would ultimately be lost from the 44 acre combined 
site since development of either project alone would likely eliminate 
so much habitat as to render the remaining isolated habitat incapable 
of supporting any gnatcatcher pairs in the long term. This alternative 
would provide only half of the conservation benefits of the Proposed 
Action while ultimately resulting in the same level of incidental take 
as the Proposed Action.
    Under the ``Different Location'' alternative, the two adjoining 
projects would be relocated to another area in the City of Temecula. 
The opportunities for needed multi-family housing in the City of 
Temecula are severely limited, and the identification and acquisition 
of an alternative site in the City cannot be assured. Under this 
alternative, both pairs of gnatcatchers may still be lost because the 
small isolated project site is not well-suited to the long term 
preservation of gnatcatcher pairs. No conservation contributions to 
regional gnatcatcher preservation would be made.
    The alternatives to the Proposed Action would result in less 
habitat conservation value for the coastal California gnatcatcher in 
the Riverside County region and contribute less to its long-term 
survival in the wild than the off-site conservation bank habitat 
preservation/management mitigation measures under the Proposed Action.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and the regulations of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). All comments that we receive, including 
names and addresses, will become part of the official administrative 
record and may be made available to the public. 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 each Applicant for the incidental take 
of the coastal California gnatcatcher. We will make our final permit 
decision no sooner than 60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: November 26, 2001.
John Engbring,
Acting Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 01-29840 Filed 11-30-01; 8:45 am]