[Federal Register: December 20, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 243)]
[Page 75478-75480]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[I.D. 110905A]

Notice of Intent to Conduct Public Scoping and to Prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement Related to the Port of Vancouver's 
Columbia Gateway Site Habitat Conservation Plan

AGENCIES: Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Interior; National Marine 
Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice; scoping meetings.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine 
Fisheries Service (Services) advise interested parties of their intent 
to conduct public scoping under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) to gather information to prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) related to a permit application from the Port of 
Vancouver, Washington, for the incidental take of listed species. The 
permit application would be associated with the Port of Vancouver 
Columbia Gateway Site Habitat Conservation Plan adjacent to the 
Columbia River in Vancouver, WA.

DATES: The public scoping meeting will be held on January 4, 2006, from 
4-7 p.m. in Vancouver, WA.
    Written comments should be received on or before January 19, 2006.

ADDRESSES: The public scoping meeting will be held at the Fruit Valley 
Community Center, 3203 Unander Avenue, Vancouver, WA 98660-1100.
    All comments concerning the preparation of the EIS and the NEPA

[[Page 75479]]

process should be addressed to: Greg M. Smith, FWS, 2600 SE 98th 
Avenue, Suite 100, Portland, OR 97266-1325, facsimile (503) 231-6195, 
or Laura Hamilton, NMFS, 510 Desmond Drive SE, Suite 103, Lacey, WA 
98503-1273, facsimile (360) 753-9517. Comments may be submitted by e-
mail to the following address: ColumbiaGatewayHCP.nwr@noaa.gov. In the 
subject line of the e-mail, include the document identifier: Columbia 
Gateway HCP-EIS.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Greg M. Smith, FWS (503) 231-6179; or 
Laura Hamilton, NMFS (360) 753-5820.


Statutory Authority

    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 1538) and 
implementing regulations prohibit the taking of animal species listed 
as endangered or threatened. The term ``take'' is defined under the ESA 
(16 U.S.C. 1532(19)) as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, 
kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such 
conduct. ``Harm'' is defined by FWS regulation to include significant 
habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). NMFS' 
definition of ``harm'' includes significant habitat modification or 
degradation where it actually kills or injures fish or wildlife by 
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including 
breeding, feeding, spawning, migrating, rearing, and sheltering (64 FR 
60727, November 8, 1999).
    Section 10 of the ESA and implementing regulations specify 
requirements for the issuance of incidental take permits (ITPs) to non-
Federal landowners for the take of endangered and threatened species. 
Any proposed take must be incidental to otherwise lawful activities, 
not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of 
the species in the wild, and minimize and mitigate the impacts of such 
take to the maximum extent practicable. In addition, the applicant must 
prepare a habitat conservation plan (HCP) describing the impact that 
will likely result from such taking, the strategy for minimizing and 
mitigating the take, the funding available to implement such steps, 
alternatives to such taking, and the reason such alternatives are not 
being implemented.
    NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requires that Federal agencies 
conduct an environmental analysis of their proposed actions to 
determine if the actions may significantly affect the human 
environment. Under NEPA, a reasonable range of alternatives to proposed 
projects is developed and considered in the Services' environmental 
review. Alternatives considered for analysis in an EIS may include: 
variations in the scope of covered activities; variations in the 
location, amount, and type of conservation; variations in permit 
duration; or a combination of these elements. In addition, the EIS will 
identify potentially significant direct, indirect, and cumulative 
impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, 
water resources, socioeconomics, and other environmental issues that 
could occur with the implementation of the applicant's proposed actions 
and alternatives. For potentially significant impacts, an EIS may 
identify avoidance, minimization, or mitigation measures to reduce 
these impacts, where feasible, to a level below significance.


    An EIS for the Columbia Gateway HCP would analyze the potential 
issuance of two ITPs, one by NMFS and one by the FWS. To obtain an ITP, 
the applicant must prepare an HCP that meets the issuance criteria 
established by the ESA and Service regulations (50 CFR 17.22(b)(2), 
17.32(b)(2), and 222.307). Should a permit or permits be issued, the 
permit(s) may include assurances under the Services' No 
Surprises regulations.
    The Port of Vancouver (Port) is seeking ITPs from the Services that 
would provide ESA regulatory certainty for a proposed expansion of 
water-dependent and water-related development at the Columbia Gateway 
site. This industrial development would consist of the infrastructure 
necessary to support marine terminals on Parcel 3 (approximately 517 
acres), and offsite transportation facilities necessary to move 
material to and from Parcel 3. These offsite transportation facilities 
include a proposed rail line to connect Columbia Gateway with the 
existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe mainline, and the extension of 
26th Avenue within the City of Vancouver to provide an alternate route 
between the site and Interstate 5, to accommodate increased cargo and 
employee trips that would occur as a result of the project.
    In addition to Parcel 3, the Columbia Gateway site includes Parcels 
2, 4, and 5, and the Port's Rufener property. Parcel 2 is a 31-acre 
tract near Parcel 3, Parcels 4 (112 acres) and 5 (430 acres) are 
located north of the Vancouver Lake Flushing Channel, and the Rufener 
property (206 acres) is located east of Vancouver Lake and west of the 
Fruit Valley neighborhood. To compensate for wildlife habitat impacts 
that would be caused by proposed development activities on Parcel 3, 
the Port proposes to provide habitat mitigation on Parcels 4 and 5 and 
the Rufener property. Some industrial facilities would also be 
developed on the Rufener property. A portion of Parcel 2 may be used as 
a transportation corridor to access Parcel 3.
    Species for which the Port seeks incidental take coverage include 
15 species of fish and one species of wildlife. Three of the fish 
species are currently listed as endangered under the ESA, including 
Upper Columbia River Spring-run Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), 
Upper Columbia River steelhead (O. mykiss), and Snake River sockeye (O. 
nerka). Nine fish species are currently listed as threatened under the 
ESA, including Lower Columbia River Chinook, Upper Willamette Chinook, 
Snake River Fall-Run Chinook, Snake River Spring/Summer-Run Chinook, 
Columbia River chum (O. keta), Lower Columbia River steelhead, Middle 
Columbia River steelhead, Upper Willamette River steelhead, and Snake 
River Basin steelhead. The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is 
also listed as threatened. The Lower Columbia River coho evolutionary 
significant unit (O. kisutch) is proposed for listing. The Pacific 
lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) and coastal cutthroat trout (O. clarki 
clarki) are species of concern. One additional species, the sandhill 
crane (Grus canadensis), will be addressed in the conservation measures 
contained in the HCP; however, the Port is not seeking ITP coverage for 
this species. The bald eagle, Pacific lamprey, coastal cutthroat trout 
and sandhill crane are under the jurisdiction of the FWS, and the 
remaining species are under the jurisdiction of NMFS.
    The draft HCP to be prepared by the Port in support of the ITP 
applications will describe the impacts of take on proposed covered 
species, and will propose a conservation strategy to minimize and 
mitigate those impacts on each covered species to the maximum extent 
practicable. The Port will develop habitat conservation measures for 
fish and wildlife, and their associated habitat, with assistance from 
the Services. Habitat conservation measures for the bald eagle will 
follow the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Bald Eagle 
Management Plan, developed for the site with the FWS and

[[Page 75480]]

the Port. Other conservation and mitigation strategies will include:
     Regulated wetland (Clean Water Act section 404) impacts as 
a result of development on Parcel 3 would be mitigated on Parcels 4 and 
5 (approximately 542 acres).
     Natural resource protection and mitigation planning would 
be primarily shaped by regulatory requirements.
     Wetland and wildlife habitat impacts from development of 
the road and rail infrastructure would be mitigated on the Port's 
Rufener property.
     Limited mitigation and habitat areas would be retained 
along the shoreline and the Flushing Channel on Parcel 3.
    The draft HCP will identify HCP alternatives considered by the Port 
and will explain why those alternatives were not selected. The Services 
are responsible for determining whether the HCP satisfies ESA section 
10 permit issuance criteria.
    Under NEPA, a reasonable range of alternatives to a proposed 
project must be developed and considered in the Services' environmental 
review. The Services have identified the following preliminary 
alternatives for public evaluation during the scoping period:
    Alternative 1: No Action - Under the No Action Alternative, the 
ITPs would not be issued by the Services and the HCP would not be 
approved. The Port would be required to comply with all local, state, 
and Federal laws and regulations through the appropriate permitting 
    Alternative 2: Proposed Alternative - There would be full 
implementation of the HCP, which includes a set of site-specific 
wetland, riparian, and upland habitat conservation measures that would 
be specific to the Columbia Gateway site and associated rail and road 
    Alternative 3: The HCP would be modified by changing or adding 
measures to further reduce the amount and risk of incidental take. 
These measures could involve different road and/or rail alignments, 
industrial development configurations, approaches to ESA compliance, 
conservation commitments, adaptive management, permit timeframes, 
covered lands, covered species, eligible parties and other covered 
    Additional project alternatives may be developed based on input 
received from the public scoping process.

Request for Comments

    The primary purpose of the scoping process is for the public to 
assist the Services in developing the EIS by identifying important 
issues and alternatives related to the applicant's proposed action. The 
scoping workshop will allocate time for presentations by the Services 
and the Port, followed by informal questions and discussions.
    Written comments from interested parties are welcome to ensure that 
the full range of issues related to the proposed permit request are 
identified. All comments and materials received, including names and 
addresses, will become part of the administrative record and may be 
released to the public.
    Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the offices 
listed in the ADDRESSES section of this notice.
    The Services request that comments be specific. In particular, we 
request information regarding: direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts 
that implementation of the proposed HCP or other alternatives could 
have on endangered and threatened and other covered species, and their 
communities and habitats; other possible alternatives that meet the 
purpose and need; potential adaptive management and/or monitoring 
provisions; funding issues; existing environmental conditions in the 
plan area; other plans or projects that might be relevant to this 
proposed project; permit duration; maximum acreage that should be 
covered; specific species that should or should not be covered; 
specific landforms that should or should not be covered; and 
minimization and mitigation efforts. NMFS and FWS estimate that the 
draft EIS will be available for public review in the summer of 2006.
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the NEPA of 1969 as amended (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), Council on Environmental Quality Regulations (40 
CFR parts 1500 1508), other applicable Federal laws and regulations, 
and applicable policies and procedures of the Services. This notice is 
being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7 of the NEPA 
regulations to obtain suggestions and information from other agencies 
and the public on the scope of issues and alternatives to be addressed 
in the EIS.

Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations to attend and participate 
in the public meeting should contact Greg Smith (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT). To allow sufficient time to process requests, 
please call no later than December 28, 2005. Information regarding the 
applicant's proposed action is available in alternative formats upon 

    Dated: November 29, 2005.
David J. Wesley,
Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, 
Portland, Oregon.

    Dated: December 14, 2005.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. E5-7564 Filed 12-19-05; 8:45 am]