[Federal Register: February 4, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 23)]
[Page 6033-6034]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the Joint 
Water Agency Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP): Subregional 
Plan and Subarea Plans, San Diego, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) advises the public that we 
intend to gather information necessary to prepare, in coordination with 
the Joint Water Agency (consisting of Helix Water District, Padre Dam 
Municipal Water District, Santa Fe Irrigation District, and the 
Sweetwater Authority) (hereafter collectively referred to as the 
Applicants), a joint Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental 
Impact Report (EIS/EIR) for a Natural Communities Conservation Program 
Subregional Plan (SRP) and three Subarea Plans (SAPs). The combination 
of the Joint Water Agency SRP and individual SAPs would serve as a 
multiple species Habitat Conservation Plan under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of 
the Federal Endangered Species Act, as amended in 1982 (ESA).
    The Service provides this notice to: (1) Describe the proposed 
action and possible alternatives; (2) advise other Federal and State 
agencies, affected Tribes, and the public of our intent to prepare an 
EIS/EIR; (3) announce the initiation of a public scoping period; and 
(4) obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues and 
alternatives to be included in the EIS/EIR.

DATES: Public scoping meetings will be held on: Tuesday, February 8, 
2005 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesday, February 9, 2005 from 4 p.m. 
to 7 p.m. Written comments should be received on or before March 7, 

ADDRESSES: The public meetings will be held at the following locations: 
(1) Tuesday, February 8, 2005, at the Sweetwater Authority Reynolds 
Desalination Facility, 3066 North Second Avenue, Chula Vista, CA 91912; 
and (2) Wednesday, February 9, 2005, at the Padre Dam Municipal Water 
District Board Room, 10887 Woodside Avenue, Santee, CA 92072.
    Information, written comments, or questions related to the 
preparation of the EIS/EIR and NEPA process should be submitted to Erin 
Fernandez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, California 92009 (facsimile 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Erin Fernandez at (760) 431-9440.


Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meeting should contact Erin Fernandez as soon 
as possible (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). In order to allow 
sufficient time to process requests, please call no later than 1 week 
before the public meeting. Information regarding this proposed action 
is available in alternative formats upon request.


    Section 9 of the Federal ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and Federal 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of a fish or wildlife species listed 
as endangered or threatened. Under the ESA, the following activities 
are defined as take: harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, 
trap, capture or collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in 
such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1538). However, under section 10(a) of the ESA, 
we may issue permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed 
species. ``Incidental take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful 
activity. Regulations governing permits for threatened species and 
endangered species, respectively, are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 17.22.
    Take of listed plant species is not prohibited under the ESA and 
cannot be authorized under a section 10 permit. We propose to include
plant species on the permit in recognition of the conservation benefits
provided for them under the plan.
The purpose of the EIS/EIR is to analyze the impacts of the
proposed implementation of the SRP and three SAPs. The Federal need for
the SRP and three SAPs is to meet the criteria for incidental take
authorization of species on the covered species list.
The proposed SRP would comprehensively address how participating
water agencies will manage their lands to conserve natural habitats and
species while continuing to provide their mandated water services to
the public. The proposed SRP would serve as an ``umbrella document'' to
guide the preparation of Natural Communities Conservation Program
subarea plans by each participating water agency. The combination of

[[Page 6034]]

Joint Water Agency SRP and individual SAPs would serve as a multiple
species Habitat Conservation Plan under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the
Federal ESA.
The Service and the California Department of Fish and Game may
issue take authorization permits for individual SAPs with conditions or
modifications. The proposed SRP would consist of several key components
including an implementation process and structure, preserve management
guidelines, and a covered species list. A total of 80 species are
proposed for coverage under the SRP. The proposed SRP would strive to
anticipate and cover the effects on biological resources of all
currently foreseeable actions of the participating water agencies over
the next 75 years. The proposed SRP would address the following groups
of foreseeable projects and covered actions: facilities operation and
maintenance, planned or conceptual projects, and potential future
The proposed planning area encompasses approximately 8,600 acres
(13.5 square miles) of land in northern, eastern, and southern San
Diego County cumulatively owned by the participating water agencies.
These lands are located in the unincorporated County area, and in the
cities of Santee, El Cajon, La Mesa, and Chula Vista. In general,
ownerships consist of land used directly for water production,
collection, storage, treatment, and distribution as well as easements
used primarily for water and wastewater distribution pipelines. These
facilities consist of open water reservoirs, water tanks, water,
reclaimed water, and wastewater treatment plants, pump stations,
pipelines, and access roads. In addition, the agencies also have
maintenance trails and roadways, maintenance yards, and sedimentation
ponds. In some situations, watershed protection lands provide
recreational facilities, including camp grounds, golf courses, boat
docks and ramps, fishing piers, hiking trails, and interpretive
signage. These lands are operated in cooperation with other agencies
such as the County and City of San Diego.
Components of the proposed conservation program are now under
consideration by the Service and the Applicants. These components will
likely include avoidance and minimization measures, monitoring,
adaptive management, and mitigation measures consisting of
preservation, restoration, and enhancement of habitat.

Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report

The Applicants, the Service, and the California Department of Fish
and Game have selected A.D. Hinshaw Associates to prepare the Draft
EIS/EIR. The joint document will be prepared in compliance with NEPA
and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Although A.D.
Hinshaw Associates will prepare the EIS/EIR, the Service will be
responsible for the scope and content of the document for NEPA
purposes, and the Sweetwater Authority will be responsible for the
scope and content of the EIR for CEQA purposes.
The EIS/EIR will consider the proposed action (i.e., the issuance
of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit under the Federal ESA), and a
reasonable range of alternatives. A detailed description of the
proposed action and alternatives will be included in the EIS/EIR. It is
anticipated that several alternatives will be developed, which may vary
by the level of conservation, impacts caused by the proposed
activities, permit area, covered species, or a combination of these
factors. Additionally, a No Action alternative will be considered.
Under the No Action alternative, the Service would not issue a section
10(a)(1)(B) permit.
The EIS/EIR will also identify potentially significant impacts on
biological resources, recreation, and other environmental issues that
could occur directly or indirectly with implementation of the proposed
action and alternatives. For all potentially significant impacts, the
EIS/EIR will identify mitigation measures where feasible to reduce
these impacts to a level below significance.
Environmental review of the EIS/EIR will be conducted in accordance
with the requirements of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), its
implementing regulations (40 CFR 1500-1508), other applicable
regulations, and Service procedures for compliance with those
regulations. This notice is being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR
1501.7 of NEPA to obtain suggestions and information from other
agencies and the public on the scope of issues and alternatives to be
addressed in the EIS/EIR. The primary purpose of the scoping process is
to identify important issues raised by the public, related to the
proposed action. Written comments from interested parties are invited
to ensure that the full range of issues related to the proposed action
is identified. While written comments are encouraged, we will accept
both written and oral comments at the public meeting. In addition, you
may submit written comments by mail or facsimile transmission (see
ADDRESSES). All comments received, including names and addresses, will
become part of the official administrative record, and may be made
available to the public.

Dated: January 31, 2005.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento,
[FR Doc. 05-2141 Filed 2-3-05; 8:45 am]