[Federal Register: March 22, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 56)]
[Page 13356-13357]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Safe Harbor Agreement for Bull Trout in Falls Creek, Lemhi 
County, ID

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that John Folsom and Ben O'Neal 
(Applicants) have each applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) for enhancement of survival permits pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The 
permit applications include a proposed Safe Harbor Agreement 
(Agreement) for bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) between the 
Applicants and the Service. The proposed permits and Agreement would 
remain in effect for 20 years. Three alternatives, including the 
proposed alternative, are described within the Environmental Assessment 
(EA), which is also available for public review and comment.
    We (the Service) announce the opening of a 30-day comment period 
and request comments from the public on the Applicants' enhancement of 
survival permit applications, the accompanying proposed Agreement, and 
Environmental Assessment. All comments we receive, including names and 
addresses, will become part of the administrative record and may be 
released to the public. For further information and instructions on 
reviewing and commenting on this document, see the Public Comment and 
Document Availability section, below.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before April 22, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Ted Koch, Project Biologist, 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, Idaho 
83709 (telephone: 208/378-5243; facsimile: 208/378-5262).




    Under the Services' Safe Harbor Agreement and Landowner Incentive 
Fund programs, participating property owners voluntarily undertake 
management activities on their property to enhance, restore, or 
maintain habitat benefiting species listed under the Endangered Species 
Act. Safe Harbor Agreements encourage private and other non-Federal 
property owners to implement conservation efforts for listed species by 
assuring property owners they will not be subjected to additional 
property use restrictions in the future. Safe Harbor Agreements provide 
assurances to the property owner that allow alterations or 
modifications to property enrolled under the Agreement, even if such 
action results in the incidental take of a listed species or, in the 
future, returns the species or habitat to an originally agreed-upon 
baseline condition. The Landowner Incentive Fund contributes funding 
for these efforts. Application requirements and issuance criteria for 
enhancement of survival permits through Safe Harbor Agreements are 
found in 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    The Falls Creek Aquatic and Riparian Restoration Project and Bull 
Trout Safe Harbor Agreement in the Pahsimeroi River basin in Central 
Idaho are proposed to enhance the conservation of bull trout, and other 
aquatic and riparian species, and continue agricultural irrigation near 
the mouth of Falls Creek. Bull trout, a species federally listed as 
threatened, are negatively affected by impacts to habitat from many 
sources, including agricultural irrigation activities. Specific impacts 
include dewatering bull trout streams and entraining bull trout in 
unscreened agricultural irrigation ditches.
    This project is expected to: (1) Restore 6 miles of stream habitat 
that has been dewatered for agricultural irrigation purposes for the 
last 80 to100 years; (2)

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reconnect a population of bull trout long isolated in the headwaters of 
Falls Creek with reduced populations downstream in the Pahsimeroi 
River; (3) open new migration, spawning, and rearing habitat for this 
and other resident fish species; (4) restore 6 miles of riparian 
habitat, connecting similar existing habitats in the mountains and the 
valley floor; and (5) allow additional recharge of the underground 
aquifer in the area. Roughly 2 miles of riparian habitat adjacent to 
existing surface water irrigation ditches would be lost when use of the 
ditches for conveying water is abandoned. Irrigation of agricultural 
fields near the mouth of Falls Creek would continue through pumping of 
groundwater, while currently diverted surface water flows would be 
returned to the historic Falls Creek stream channel. The Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM) would implement stream habitat restoration actions on 
lands under their management to facilitate aquatic and riparian habitat 
restoration, and may provide technical assistance to neighboring 
private landowners. Due to the experimental nature of the project, the 
Service, BLM and others will monitor effects on bull trout, aquatic and 
riparian habitats, ground water resources, and adapt management as 
    The proposed Agreement would seek to eliminate or minimize impacts 
to bull trout and other aquatic and riparian dependent species from 
agricultural irrigation activities by facilitating the following 
actions: (1) Restore, as a baseline condition, 8.0 cubic feet per 
second (cfs) of stream flow in the 6-mile long dewatered portion of 
Falls Creek by transferring surface irrigation flow rights to ground 
water wells drilled near the mouth of Falls Creek; (2) Reconstruct the 
existing head box, or irrigation diversion facility, to improve flow 
control, ensuring appropriate surface flows are provided in the stream 
channel; (3) Reestablish the currently dewatered, natural Falls Creek 
stream channel and riparian habitat so water can flow in a defined 
channel to the Pahsimeroi River via Big Springs Creek; (4) Enhance 
ground-water recharge in the local hydrologic system; (5) Develop a new 
irrigation system to improve efficiency of water use; (6) Determine 
pre-project fisheries and riparian status in specific locations, and 
implement monitoring, evaluation, and adaptive management programs; and 
(7) Monitor effects of the new ground water wells on other wells in the 
valley, and the relationship between Falls Creek surface water flows 
and ground water pumping.
    Consistent with our Safe Harbor policy, we would issue enhancement 
of survival permits to the Applicants authorizing incidental take of 
bull trout as a result of agricultural irrigation activities on their 
property. Additionally, as a condition of the Agreement and issuance of 
a 10(a)(1)(A) enhancement of survival permits, the Applicants are 
assured that we will not require additional conservation measures nor 
impose additional land, water, or resource use restrictions beyond 
those voluntarily agreed to. We expect that the incidental take 
authorized under the proposed Agreement may never occur. Any incidental 
take that might occur from the proposed action would result from the 
effects of ground water pumping on surface water flows in Falls Creek, 
which is expected to be minimal or non-existent. In accordance with 
this Agreement, the minimum baseline condition will be the Applicants' 
provision of 8.0 cfs of surface water flow rights to the natural stream 
channel in Falls Creek. Take of bull trout as a result of diverting any 
of the 8.0 cfs of stream flow rights will not be authorized.
    In addition to the proposed Surface Water Restoration alternative 
described above, other alternatives considered in more detail include: 
A No Action Alternative that would continue to dewater Falls Creek with 
no habitat restoration, isolate a bull trout population in the stream's 
headwaters, and risk entrainment and mortality of bull trout in 
unscreened irrigation ditches; an Irrigator Buy-Out Alternative that 
would terminate irrigation in the Falls Creek area and completely 
restore aquatic and riparian habitat in Falls Creek; and an Increased 
Irrigation Efficiency alternative that would include all four 
irrigators on Falls Creek as permittees of the Service, and restore 
some stream flow and habitat to Falls Creek.

Public Comment and Document Availability

    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Endangered 
Species Act and pursuant to implementing regulations for the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the permit 
application, associated documents, and comments submitted to determine 
whether the permit application meets the requirements of section 10(a) 
of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act 
regulations. If we determine that the requirements are met, we will 
sign the proposed Agreement and issue enhancement of survival permits 
under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act to the 
Applicants for take of bull trout in accordance with the terms of the 
Agreement. We will not make our final decision until after the end of 
the 30-day comment period and will fully consider all comments received 
during the comment period.
    You may obtain copies of the documents for review by contacting the 
individual named above (see ADDRESSES). You also may make an 
appointment to view the documents at the above address during normal 
business hours (see ADDRESSES).

    Dated: March 1, 2002.
Rowan W. Gould,
Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, 
Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 02-6909 Filed 3-21-02; 8:45 am]