[Federal Register: May 3, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 84)]
[Page 22898-22900]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of Environmental Document and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit Associated With a Safe Harbor 
Agreement for Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Ormond 
Beach Property, Ventura County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that Metropolitan Water 
District of Southern California (MWD) has applied to the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service

[[Page 22899]]

(Service or ``we'') for an enhancement of survival permit pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). The permit application includes a proposed Safe Harbor Agreement 
(Agreement) between the applicant and the Service. The Agreement 
proposes to enroll 296 acres of land, which includes 276 acres that is 
to provide for the preservation of coastal marsh and wetlands to aid in 
the conservation of the endangered brown pelican (Pelecanus 
occidentalis), California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni), light-
footed clapper rail (Rallus longirostris levipes), tidewater goby 
(Eucyclogobius newberryi), salt marsh bird's beak (Cordylanthus 
maritimus ssp. maritimus), Ventura marsh milk-vetch (Astragalus 
pycnostachyus var. lanosissimus) and threatened western snowy plover 
(Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus), and 20 acres of ongoing farming 
activities which will eventually be developed for industrial or 
commercial use. The proposed enrolled lands are properties owned by MWD 
at Ormond Beach, Ventura County, California. The proposed duration of 
the Agreement and permit is 75 years.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the proposed 
Agreement and permit application are eligible for categorical exclusion 
under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The basis 
for this determination is contained in an Environmental Action 
Statement, which also is available for public review.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before June 2, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Diane Noda, Field 
Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003. You may 
also send comments by facsimile to (805) 644-3958. (see Public Review 
and Comment section below).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Dellith, Senior Biologist for 
northern Los Angeles/Ventura/southern Santa Barbara counties, (see 
ADDRESSES) telephone: (805) 644-1766.



    Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating landowners voluntarily 
undertake management activities on their property to enhance, restore, 
or maintain habitat benefiting species listed under the 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 increased property use 
restrictions if their efforts attract listed species to their property 
or increase the numbers or distribution of listed species already on 
their property. Application requirements and issuance criteria for 
enhancement of survival permits through Safe Harbor Agreements are 
found in 50 CFR 17.22(c). The Applicant has developed the proposed 
Agreement for 296 acres of enrolled land for the conservation of the 
federally listed brown pelican, California least tern, light-footed 
clapper rail, tidewater goby, salt marsh bird's beak, Ventura marsh 
milk-vetch, and the western snowy plover (Covered Species) on property 
at Ormond Beach in Ventura County. The conservation measure in the 
Agreement calls for the preservation of 276 acres of coastal wetland. 
The preservation of these 276 acres will be accomplished through the 
sale of the property to a non-profit conservation organization with a 
deed restriction, in perpetuity, that requires the property be used for 
open space, habitat preservation, wetland restoration, and public 
access only. The MWD plans to retain 20 acres, of the 296 acres of 
enrolled lands, at the Ormond Beach project site for ongoing farming 
operations and potential development for commercial and industrial use.
    Although none of the Covered Species, except for western snowy 
plover, currently occur on the 296 acres of enrolled lands, the 
preservation of the 276 acres, with the deed restriction, could benefit 
all of the Covered Species in the future. The Covered Species are 
threatened with loss and degradation of the coastal habitats with which 
they are strongly associated. All of the species are likely to benefit 
through the preservation of open space and suitable habitat into which 
dispersing individuals from expanding populations elsewhere can move, 
or, in the case of the covered plants, direct introduction from source 
    The conservation measure set forth in the Agreement is expected to 
result in the following net conservation benefits to the Covered 
Species: (1) Insurance against the decline of the Covered Species in 
the general area as a result of habitat loss; (2) increased 
availability of suitable breeding and foraging habitat through 
preservation and eventual restoration of the property; (3) reduced 
fragmentation, and potential increased connectivity of populations in 
the general area; and, (4) likelihood of increased population sizes of 
the Covered Species in the general area.
    Consistent with the Service's Safe Harbor policy and regulations, 
the Service proposes to issue a permit to MWD authorizing incidental 
take as a result of normal farming activities currently occurring on 
the 20 acre property. Normal farming activities include planting, 
harvesting, weed and insect control, pruning, mowing, discing, 
operation of vehicles and farm equipment, and similar activities.
    This Agreement and permit will also authorize MWD incidental take 
of the Covered Species above MWD's baseline responsibilities on the 296 
acres of enrolled lands, at the end of the term of the 75-year 
Agreement, if so desired by MWD.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that approval of 
the Agreement qualifies as a categorical exclusion under NEPA, as 
provided by the Department of Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 
516 DM 6, Appendix 1) based on the following criteria: (1) 
Implementation of the Agreement would result in minor or negligible 
effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate species and their 
habitats; (2) implementation of the Agreement would result in minor or 
negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; and (3) 
impacts of the Agreement, 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. This is more 
fully explained in our Environmental Action Statement.
    Based upon this preliminary determination, we do not intend to 
prepare further NEPA documentation. The Service will consider public 
comments in making its final determination on whether to prepare such 

Public Review and Comments

    Individuals wishing copies of the permit application, the 
Environmental Action Statement, or copies of the full text of the 
Agreement, including a map of the proposed permit area, references, and 
legal descriptions of the proposed permit area, should contact the 

office and personnel listed in the ADDRESSES section above. Documents 
also will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office 
(ADDRESSES section above).
    The Service provides this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the 
Act and pursuant to implementing regulations for NEPA (40 CRF 1506.6). 
All comments received on the permit application and Agreement, 

[[Page 22900]]

names and addresses, will become part of the Administration record and 
may be released to the public. If you wish us to withhold your name 
and/or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of 
your comment. Anonymous comments will not be considered. All 
submissions from organizations or businesses are available for public 
inspection in their entirety.
    We will evaluate the permit application, the Agreement, and 
comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets 
the requirements of section 10(a) of the Act and NEPA regulations. If 
the requirements are met, the Service will sign the proposed Agreement 
and issue an enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) 
of the Act to MWD for the take of the seven covered species incidental 
to otherwise lawful activities of the project. The Service will not 
make a final decision until the end of the 30-day comment period and 
will fully consider all comments received during the comment period.

    Dated: April 26, 2005.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 05-8752 Filed 5-2-05; 8:45 am]