[Federal Register: April 7, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 66)]
[Page 16826-16827]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for 
Caspian Tern Management in the Columbia River Estuary and Notification 
of Six Public Scoping Meetings

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as 
amended (NEPA), this notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), 
and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are preparing an 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia) 
Management in the Columbia River estuary, and announces six public 
scoping meetings. The proposed project study area includes the States 
of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Nevada. We are furnishing 
this notice in compliance with NEPA and implementing regulations for 
the following purposes: (1) To advise other agencies and the public of 
our intentions; (2) to obtain

[[Page 16827]]

suggestions and information on the issues related to the proposed 
project to be addressed in the EIS; and (3) to announce public meetings 
for scoping.

DATES: Written comments are encouraged, and should be received no later 
than 5 p.m. Pacific time on May 22, 2003. Interested parties may 
contact the Service for more information at the address below. Proposed 
project information will be presented, and comments will be accepted at 
each meeting. The meeting dates and times are:

1. April 14, 2003, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Oakland, CA.
2. April 15, 2003, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Arcata, CA.
3. April 28, 2003, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Aberdeen, WA.
4. April 29, 2003, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Olympia, WA.
5. May 5, 2003, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Astoria, OR.
6. May 6, 2003, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Portland, OR.

ADDRESSES: Address comments, requests for more information related to 
the preparation of the EIS, or requests to be added to the mailing list 
for this project to: Nanette Seto, Migratory Birds and Habitat 
Programs, 911 NE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232, telephone (503) 231-
6164, facsimile (503) 231-2019.
    The meeting locations are:

1. Oakland, Marriott, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, CA.
2. Arcata, Redwood Park Lodge, East Park Road, Arcata, CA.
3. Aberdeen, Grays Harbor College, 1620 Edward P. Smith Dr., Aberdeen, 
4. Olympia, Washington State Capital Museum, 211 West 21st Ave., 
Olympia, WA.
5. Astoria, Duncan Law Seafood Center, 2021 Marine Drive 200, 
Astoria, OR.
6. Portland, Double Tree Hotel, Lloyd Center, 1000 North East 
Multnomah, Portland, OR.



    In 2000, Seattle Audubon, National Audubon, American Bird 
Conservancy, and Defenders of Wildlife filed a lawsuit against the 
Corps alleging that compliance with NEPA for the proposed action of 
relocating a large colony of Caspian terns from Rice Island to East 
Sand Island, to reduce tern predation on salmon smolts, was 
insufficient; and against the Service in objection to the potential 
take of eggs as a means to prevent nesting on Rice Island. In 2002, all 
parties reached a settlement agreement. Terms of the agreement require 
the provision of approximately 6 acres of habitat for Caspian terns on 
East Sand Island and the prohibition of lethal take of adults or eggs 
on Rice Island. The settlement agreement also stipulates that the 
Service, Corps, and NMFS prepare an EIS to address salmon smolt 
predation and Caspian tern management in the Columbia River estuary.

Current Planning Effort

    The Service, Corps, and NMFS are beginning the process of 
developing an EIS for Caspian tern management in the Columbia River 
estuary. The EIS will address the following issues: (1) Caspian tern 
predation on salmon smolts in the Columbia River estuary; (2) 
management of Caspian terns in the Pacific Coast/Western region, 
particularly the colony on East Sand Island in the Columbia River 
estuary; and (3) long-term ownership and management of East Sand Island 
in the Columbia River estuary.

Preliminary Scoping Issues

    The following preliminary issues and questions have been identified 
for consideration in the EIS. Additional issues will be identified 
during public scoping.
    1. Predation by the current Caspian tern colony on East Sand Island 
may have impacts on listed salmonids in the Columbia River estuary. 
Salmon experience high mortality rates as juveniles during the 
freshwater, estuary and early ocean stages, leading researchers to 
suggest that reducing mortality during the juvenile stage has the 
potential to increase population growth rates. NMFS is concerned over 
the increasing impact of avian predation on listed salmonids in the 
Columbia River estuary.
    2. Is there a need to actively manage the Caspian tern colony on 
East Sand Island to ensure long-term conservation of this species in 
the Pacific Coast/Western region? Natural and human-caused events have 
reduced or eliminated habitat in the Pacific Coast/Western region; 8 of 
15 historic colonies have been lost or abandoned in the last 20 years. 
Currently, about 24 colonies of Caspian terns are breeding in the 
region, with many concentrated on few remaining suitable sites. In 
particular, East Sand Island contains about 70 percent of the tern 
population in the region. This large colony may be vulnerable to 
catastrophic accidents in the Columbia River and stochastic events such 
as storms, predators, human disturbance, and disease.
    3. Management actions may be required to protect salmonid stocks 
and the Caspian tern colony in the Columbia River estuary. Federal and 
State agencies, and nongovernmental organizations have agreed to 
explore the need and opportunity to restore, create, and enhance 
nesting habitat for Caspian terns in the Pacific Coast/Western region 
as one means to reduce and disperse the large tern colony on East Sand 
Island in the Columbia River estuary. The benefits of this action would 
reduce the level of tern predation on out-migrating Columbia River 
smolts and lower the vulnerability of a significant portion of the 
breeding Caspian terns in the Pacific Coast/Western region to 
catastrophic events.

Public Comments

    Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the above 
address. All comments received from individuals on Environmental Impact 
Statements become part of the official public record. Requests for such 
comments will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information 
Act, the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA regulations (40 CFR 
1506.6(f)), and other Service and Departmental policy and procedures. 
When requested, the Service generally will provide comment letters with 
the names and addresses of the individuals who wrote the comments. 
However, the telephone number of the commenting individual will not be 
provided in response to such requests to the extent permissible by law. 
Additionally, public comment letters are not required to contain the 
commentator's name, address, or other identifying information. Such 
comments may be submitted anonymously to the Service.
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), NEPA Regulations (40 
CFR parts 1500-1508), other appropriate Federal laws and regulations, 
and Service policies and procedures for compliance with those 

    Dated: March 7, 2003.
Rowan Gould,
Deputy Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, 
Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 03-6898 Filed 4-4-03; 8:45 am]