[Federal Register: June 18, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 117)]
[Page 34185-34187]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Bureau of Reclamation


Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Draft Environmental Impact 
Report (DEIS/DEIR) for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Habitat 
Conservation Program, Section 10 Permit Application for Incidental 
Take, Draft Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Habitat Conservation 
Plan, Draft Biological Assessment, and Draft Implementing Agreement

AGENCIES: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, 

ACTION: Notice of availability and public hearings.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), this 
notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) has received an application for an incidental take permit 
(ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act), for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species 
Conservation Program (LCR MSCP). The requested ITP, if granted, would 
authorize the LCR MSCP permittees incidental take of the following 
federally listed and candidate species: southwestern willow flycatcher 
(Empidonax traillii extimus) (flycatcher), Yuma clapper rail (Rallus 
longirostris yumanensis) (clapper rail), desert tortoise (Gopherus 
agassizii) (tortoise), bonytail (Gila elegans) (bonytail), humpback 
chub (Gila cypha) (humpback), razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) 
(razorback), and yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) (cuckoo). 
The requested ITP would also address incidental take for 20 other 
species of animals and plants that are not currently federally listed 
or candidate species. The

[[Page 34186]]

proposed take would occur in Mohave, La Paz, and Yuma counties, 
Arizona; San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial counties, California; 
and Clark County, Nevada, as a result of water storage and delivery, 
power generation, and other associated water management actions on the 
lower Colorado River (LCR) from the full pool elevation of Lake Mead to 
the Southerly International Boundary with Mexico. Such actions cause 
effects to aquatic, marsh, and riparian habitats. The Bureau of 
Reclamation (Reclamation), the Service, and The Metropolitan Water 
District of Southern California as joint lead agencies, have issued a 
DEIS/DEIR to evaluate the impacts of, and alternatives for, the 
possible issuance of an ITP and the implementation by Reclamation of 
conservation measures contained in the habitat conservation plan. The 
participating Federal and non-Federal entities have completed the draft 
Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) as 
part of the application package submitted to the Service (collectively, 
the ``Application'') as required by the Act for consideration of 
issuance of an ITP, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B). The Application 
provides measures to minimize and mitigate the effects of the proposed 
taking of listed, candidate, and other species. As part of the LCR 
MSCP, Reclamation has completed a draft Biological Assessment (BA), 
which includes an evaluation of the effects of its proposed ongoing 
discretionary LCR operations and maintenance activities and its 
implementation of the conservation measures described in the 
Reclamation Draft BA and in the HCP for the listed, candidate, and 
other included species.

DATES: Written comments on the DEIS/DEIR and Application documents will 
be accepted until close of business August 18, 2004. Public hearings 
will be held the following dates and times:
     July 20, 2004, 6:30 p.m., Henderson, Nevada.
     July 21, 2004, 6:30 p.m., Blythe, California.
     July 22, 2004, 6:30 p.m., Phoenix, Arizona.

ADDRESSES: These documents are voluminous, so we suggest interested 
parties obtain these documents by going to the LCR MSCP Web site at 
http://www.lcrmscp.org. Alternatively, persons may obtain compact disks 

containing electronic copies of these documents by writing to Mr. Steve 
Spangle, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West 
Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021, calling (602) 242-0210, 
or faxing (602) 242-2513; or Mr. Glen Gould, Bureau of Reclamation, 
P.O. Box 61470, LC-2011, Boulder City, NV 89006-1470, calling (702) 
293-8702, or faxing (702) 293-8418. Finally, a limited number of 
printed copies will be made available, by request, at the same 
addresses, phone numbers, and fax numbers. Copies of the DEIS/DEIR and 
Application are also available for public inspection and review at the 
locations listed under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION below. Comments may be 
submitted in writing to the above persons and fax numbers. Written and 
oral comments will also be accepted at the following public hearings:
     Henderson, Nevada; Henderson Convention Center, Vista 
Room; 200 South Water Street.
     Blythe, California; City Council Chambers, 235 North 
     Phoenix, Arizona; Arizona Department of Water Resources; 
500 North Third Street.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, 
Phoenix, AZ 85021 or (602) 242-0210; or Mr. Glen Gould, Bureau of 
Reclamation, P.O. Box 61470, LC-2011, Boulder City, NV 89006-1470 or 
(702) 293-8702.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice advises the public that the 
Service and Reclamation have gathered the information necessary to: (1) 
Formulate alternatives and determine impacts for the DEIS/DEIR related 
to the potential issuance of an ITP for the LCR MSCP; and (2) develop 
and implement the HCP, which provides measures to minimize and mitigate 
the effects of incidental take of federally listed species to the 
maximum extent practicable.
    Section 9 of the Act prohibits the ``taking'' of threatened and 
endangered species. However, the Service, under limited circumstances, 
may issue ITPs to take threatened or endangered wildlife species when 
such taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful 
activities. Regulations governing issuance of ITPs pursuant to the Act 
are published at 50 CFR parts 13 and 17. This notice is provided 
pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 
    Preparation of the DEIS/DEIR and HCP Application pursuant to this 
Federal Register (FR) notice predated issuance of a recent decision by 
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the United States District Court for the 
District of Columbia in the Spirit of the Sage Council, et al., v. 
Norton litigation, Civ. No. 98-1873 (June 10, 2004). Issuance of any 
ITPs as part of the LCR MSCP will conform to the provisions of that 
decision, unless modified by a court of competent jurisdiction, 
including the requirement that the Department of the Interior ``shall 
refrain from approving new ITPs or related documents containing ``No 
Surprise'' assurances, as defined by * * * [the] No Surprise rule'' 
``pending completion of the proceeding on remand'' in the litigation.
    Review and Inspection of DEIS/DEIR and Application: Copies of the 
DEIS/DEIR and Application are available for public inspection and 
review at the following locations (by appointment at government 
     Department of the Interior, Natural Resources Library, 
1849 C. St., NW., Washington, DC 20240.
     U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Avenue, SW., Room 
4012, Albuquerque, NM 87102.
     U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, 
Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021.
     Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado Region, 500 Date 
Street, Boulder City, NV 86009-1470.
     Bureau of Reclamation, Upper Colorado Region, 125 South 
State Street, Room 6107, Salt Lake City, UT 84138-1102.
     Bureau of Reclamation Library, Denver Federal Center, 6th 
Avenue and Kipling, Building 67, Room 167, Denver, CO 80225.
     Bureau of Reclamation, Phoenix Area Office, 2222 W. Dunlap 
Ave., Suite 100, Phoenix, AZ 85021.
     Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, 700 N. 
Alameda St., Los Angeles, CA 90017.
     Government Document Service, Arizona State University, 
Tempe, AZ 85287.
     Yuma County Library, 350 S. 3rd Ave., Yuma, AZ 85384.
     Palo Verde Valley Library, 125 W. Chanslor Way, Blythe, CA 
     Mohave County Library, 1170 Hancock Rd., Bullhead City, AZ 
     Laughlin Library, 2840 South Needles Hwy., Laughlin, NV 
     Clark County Library, 1401 East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, 
NV 89119.
     James I. Gibson Library, 280 Water Street, Henderson, NV 
    Public Disclosure: Written comments become part of the public 
record associated with this proposed action. Accordingly, the Service 
and Reclamation make these comments, including names and home addresses 
of respondents, available for public review. Individual respondents may 
request that their home addresses be withheld from public disclosure, 
which will be honored to the extent allowable

[[Page 34187]]

by law. There also may be circumstances in which a respondent's 
identity would be withheld from public disclosure, as allowable by law. 
If you wish to have your name and/or address withheld, you must state 
this prominently at the beginning of your comments. However, anonymous 
comments will not be considered. All submissions from organizations or 
businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as 
representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be 
made available for public disclosure in their entirety.
    Background: The initial Notice of Intent to prepare a DEIS/DEIR and 
hold public scoping meetings was published in the Federal Register on 
May 18, 1999 (64 FR 27000), and a supplemental Notice of Intent was 
published on July 12, 2000 (65 FR 43031). A summary of comments 
provided during the 1999 and 2000 scoping periods, which included 
public meetings, as well as during public meetings held in November 
2003, is provided on the Reclamation Internet Web site: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/mscp

    The LCR MSCP and the conservation program described in the HCP and 
the draft BA were developed in a process involving participants and 
stakeholders from potentially affected or interested groups on the LCR. 
These groups include Federal agencies, i.e., U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park 
Service, and the Bureau of Land Management; six Tribes; the States of 
Arizona, California, and Nevada; and other entities within the Lower 
Basin States of Arizona, California, and Nevada. The groups are 
organized into a Steering Committee and various subject matter 
subcommittees that oversee the development of the LCR MSCP. Meetings of 
the Steering Committee are open to the public and time for public 
comment is included at each meeting. The LCR MSCP Web site contains 
information on meetings, documents, and the status of the process. 
Three sets of public meetings were held from 1999-2003 to explain the 
need for the LCR MSCP, request information on important issues for the 
NEPA process, receive input on the conservation program, and present 
alternatives. With this extensive history of public involvement, the 
Service does not intend to extend the public comment period beyond 60 
days unless warranted by extraordinary circumstances.
    The Colorado River is an important source of water and hydropower 
to the Lower Basin States of Arizona, California, and Nevada. 
Reclamation operates the large dams on the LCR for flood control, 
irrigation, municipal water supply, water storage, and hydropower 
generation and maintains the river channel through stabilization and 
other related actions. Each of the three Lower Basin States has an 
apportionment of Colorado River water they divert from the river and 
use for agricultural, municipal, and industrial purposes. Water 
diverted from the Colorado River travels as far as the cities of Los 
Angeles and San Diego in California, and Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona. 
The Colorado River is also the primary source of water for the City of 
Las Vegas and the greater Las Vegas area in southern Nevada. Extensive 
farming areas in California and Arizona, and to a lesser extent in 
Nevada, are also supplied with water from the Colorado River.
    Operation of the facilities on the LCR by Reclamation and diversion 
of water by entities within the three Lower Basin States have resulted 
in significant changes to the physical and biological character of the 
LCR. Changes to present operations and water deliveries proposed by 
Reclamation and the states are projected to have adverse impacts to 
habitats and may result in incidental take of the flycatcher, clapper 
rail, tortoise, bonytail, humpback, razorback, and cuckoo. Habitat of 
the 20 non-listed species may also be adversely affected by such 
anticipated changes.
    Proposed Action: The proposed action has two components. The first 
is the issuance of an ITP by the Service for covered activities on the 
LCR undertaken by the LCR MSCP, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act. The activities that would be covered by the ITP are the water- and 
power-related actions, and other specific identified non-Federal 
actions involving the LCR. The area covered by the ITP includes Lake 
Mead up to its full pool elevation of 1,229 feet, Lake Mohave up to its 
full pool elevation of 647 feet, Lake Havasu up to its full pool 
elevation of 450 feet, and the LCR and its historical floodplain from 
the highest elevation of Lake Mead to the Southerly International 
Boundary with the Republic of Mexico. The requested term of the permit 
is 50 years. To meet the requirements of a section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP, the 
LCR MSCP has developed and, with the cooperation of Reclamation, will 
implement the conservation plan described in the Draft BA and in the 
HCP, which provides measures to minimize and mitigate incidental take 
of flycatchers, clapper rails, tortoises, bonytails, humpbacks, and 
razorbacks to the maximum extent practicable, and which ensures that 
the incidental take will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of these species in the wild. The conservation 
plan identified in the Draft BA and the HCP also addresses potential 
impacts on the cuckoo (a candidate species) and 20 other species of 
animals and plants.
    The second component is the implementation of the LCR MSCP HCP by 
Reclamation as part of its proposed action for consultation under 
section 7(a)(2) of the Act for its continued proposed discretionary 
operations and maintenance activities on the LCR.
    Alternatives: Three other alternatives being considered as part of 
this process are:
    1. No ITP--No issuance of an ITP. This alternative would require 
the LCR MSCP participants to pursue individual ITP's to address 
incidental take resulting from their actions on the LCR or avoid taking 
actions that would result in incidental take. This approach would 
require Reclamation to consult separately on its continued proposed 
discretionary operations and maintenance activities on the LCR.
    2. Listed Species Only--Issuance of an ITP authorizing the same 
covered actions by the LCR MSCP participants but only requesting 
incidental take coverage for the six species currently listed as 
endangered or threatened pursuant to the Act. This alternative includes 
measures to minimize and mitigate for the potential take of federally 
listed species.
    3. Off-Site Conservation--Issuance of an ITP authorizing the same 
covered actions by the LCR MSCP participants and the same list of 27 
species. Habitat restoration activities would occur outside of the LCR 
MSCP planning area in adjacent river basins. This alternative includes 
measures to minimize and mitigate for the potential take of federally 
listed species, candidate species, and unlisted species.

    Dated: June 15, 2004.
Willie R. Taylor,
Director, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance.
[FR Doc. 04-13864 Filed 6-17-04; 8:45 am]