[Federal Register: August 26, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 165)]
[Page 54818-54819]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Incidental Take Permit and Habitat Conservation Plan for AT&T 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: AT&T Corporation (Applicant) 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 Service proposes to issue a 10-year permit that would 
authorize take (e.g., harm and harassment) of the endangered Point 
Arena mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa nigra) incidental to otherwise 
lawful activities. Such take would occur as the result of construction 
to connect an existing fiber optic conduit to the AT&T Point Arena 
Cable Station located near Manchester, Mendocino County, California.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application which 
includes a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Point Arena mountain 
beaver. We also request comments on our preliminary determination that 
the HCP qualifies as a ``low-effect'' habitat conservation plan, 
eligible for a categorical exclusion from additional documentation 
under the National Environmental Policy Act.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before September 25, 

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Mr. Bruce G. Halstead, Project 
Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, 
California, 95521. Comments may also be sent by facsimile to (707) 822-

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. John Hunter, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address or call (707) 822-7201.


Document Availability

    The permit application, HCP, and the Service's low-effect HCP 
screening form are available for public review. The HCP describes the 
proposed project and the measures that the Applicant would undertake to 
minimize and mitigate take of Point Arena mountain beavers. The 
screening form describes the basis for the Service's preliminary 
determination that the HCP qualifies as a low effect plan eligible for 
a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act.
    Please contact the above office if you would like copies of the 
application, HCP and screening form. Documents will also be available 
for review, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 
address. All comments we receive, including names and addresses, will 
become part of the administrative record and may be released to the 


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. 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, otherwise lawful activity. Regulations 
governing incidental take permits for threatened and endangered species 
are found in 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 17.22, respectively.
    The Applicant has applied to the Service for a section 10(a)(1)(B) 
incidental take permit for the point Arena mountain beaver, on the AT&T 
Point Arena Cable Station, in Mendocino County, California. The term of 
the permit would be 10 years. The AT&T Cable Station consists of 11.2 
acres of privately-owned land located approximately 1 mile northwest of 
the town of Manchester. Prior to the listing of the Point Arena 
mountain beaver, three 5-inch-diameter steel bore pipes were installed 
below the surface of the ground from a point offshore of the cable 
station in the Pacific Ocean to a point about 88 feet from the north 
side of the cable station building. An occupied Point Arena mountain 
beaver burrow system is located 30 feet north from the end of the bore 
pipes. The Applicant proposes to install an access vault at this 
location, trench and bury cable conduit for 77 feet, and then install a 
manhole at the end of the cable conduit. The Applicant may then utilize 
this system by placing fiber optic cables in these pipes and conduits. 
The Service considers this project to entail take of Point Arena 
mountain beaver since noise and vibration disturbance and habitat loss 
will occur near occupied burrows.
    The AT&T Cable Station is composed of structures, a parking lot, 
access roads, occupied Point Arena mountain beaver habitat and 
unoccupied potential habitat. The occupied, and some of the unoccupied, 
habitat consists of stabilized dunes dominated by bush lupine (Lupinus 
arboreus) and other coastal scrub and coastal strand species

[[Page 54819]]

such as coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis), coast goldenrod (Solidago 
spathulata), ice-plant (Carpobrotus sp.), and other mixed grasses and 
forbs. Much of the currently unoccupied habitat consists of non-native, 
invasive conifers including Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) and Monterey 
cypress (Cypress macrocarpa). Habitat in the surrounding areas are 
similar, although there are large areas of unsuitable agricultural 
pasture lands.
    The proposed project will permanently remove approximately 15 
square feet of suitable but currently unoccupied habitat, and cause 
about 7 days of non-breeding season disturbance of all mountain beavers 
on about 0.25 acre of occupied habitat. There may also be 1 day of 
breeding season disturbance on the same 0.25 acre while fiber optic 
cables are pulled through the pipes and conduits. Mitigation for the 
HCP involves rehabilitation and maintenance of 1 acre of unoccupied and 
currently unsuitable habitat presently covered by non-native conifers. 
This rehabilitation work will cause disturbance for an additional 3 to 
5 days during the non-breeding season and will affect all Point Arena 
mountain beaver associated with approximately 3 acres of occupied 
    As described in the HCP, the Applicant proposes the following 
measures to minimize and mitigate the anticipated project impacts: (A) 
All construction (except cable pulling) and habitat rehabilitation work 
will occur outside of the Point Arena mountain beaver breeding season 
(December 15 to June 30) and during daylight hours; (B) an 8-foot-high, 
3/4-inch-wide plywood sound barrier will be placed between the 
construction and the occupied habitat; (C) vibratory compactors will 
only be used at the proposed manhole location; (D) areas altered by 
trenching will be restored as much as possible to a prework condition; 
(E) all activities including entry of personnel into the occupied 
habitats will be closely supervised by a biological monitor; and (F) 
material from cut conifers will be disposed off site.
    Monitoring of the mountain beaver population at the entire Cable 
Station site will consist of two surveys per year, every other year, 
for 10 years. The methods for this monitoring will closely follow a 
methodology and a layout which have been in place on this site since 
1992, and will thereby contribute to the only long-term monitoring 
program for this subspecies. In addition, counts of burrow openings in 
areas rehabilitated by non-native conifer removal will also occur on 
the same schedule in order to assess the effectiveness of the 
    The Service's Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an 
incidental take permit and implementation of the HCP, which includes 
measures to minimize and mitigate impacts of the project on Point Arena 
mountain beaver. One alternative to the taking of listed species under 
the Proposed Action is considered in the HCP. Under the No Action 
Alternative, no permit would be issued. However, this alternative would 
result in an economic burden to the Applicant and no Point Arena 
mountain beaver habitat rehabilitation would occur.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the HCP 
qualifies as a ``low effect'' plan as defined by its Habitat 
Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). The Service 
determination that a habitat conservation plan qualifies as a low-
effect plan is based on the following 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 
Screening Form for Low-Effect HCP Determinations, the Applicant's HCP 
for the Point Area Cable Station qualifies as a ``low-effect'' plan for 
the following reasons:

    1. Approval of the HCP would result in minor or negligible 
effects to the Point Arena mountain beaver. The Service does not 
anticipate significant direct or cumulative effects to the Point 
Arena mountain beaver resulting from the proposed construction. No 
other federally listed, proposed, or candidate species are known or 
expected to occur within or immediately adjacent to the proposed 
    2. Approval of the HCP would not have adverse effects on unique 
geographic, historic or cultural sites, or involve unique or unknown 
environmental risks.
    3. Approval of the HCP would not result in any cumulative or 
growth inducing impacts and, therefore, will 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 HCP 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 HCP qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the 
National Environmental Policy Act, as provided by the Department of 
Interior Manual (516 DM2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). Based 
on 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 HCP, 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 for the incidental take of the Point 
Arena mountain beaver from the proposed construction project. We will 
make the final permit decision no sooner than 30 days from the date of 
this notice.

    Dated: August 19, 2002.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 02-21603 Filed 8-23-02; 8:45 am]