[Federal Register: October 24, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 205)]
[Page 62251-62252]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 62251]]



Fish and Wildlife Service


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[I.D. 092706C]

Notice of Intent To Conduct Public Scoping and To Prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement Related to the Washington Department of 
Natural Resources Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan

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

ACTION: Notice; scoping meetings, request for comments.


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 Washington 
Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) for the incidental take of 
species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The permit application 
would be associated with the WDNR's Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation 

DATES: See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for meeting dates. Written 
comments should be received on or before December 8, 2006.

ADDRESSES: See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for meeting locations.
    All comments concerning preparation of the EIS and the NEPA process 
should be addressed to: Jo Ellen Henry, FWS, 510 Desmond Drive, SE., 
Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503, facsimile number 360-753-9518; or John 
Stadler, NMFS, 510 Desmond Drive, SE., Suite 103, Lacey, WA 98503, 
facsimile number 360-753-9517. Submit electronic comments to 
WADNRaquaticlands[fxsp0]HCP.nwr@noaa.gov. In the subject line of the 
electronic mail, include the document identifier: Washington DNR 
Aquatics HCP EIS.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jo Ellen Henry, FWS, telephone 360-
753-7766; or John Stadler, NMFS, telephone 360-753-9576.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Five public scoping meetings are scheduled 
from 7 to 9:30 p.m. for the following dates and locations:
    (1) October 24, 2006; at the Student Union Building, Spokane Falls 
Community College, 3410 West Fort George Wright Drive, Spokane, WA 
    (2) October 25, 2006; at the Student Union Building, Central 
Washington University, 400 East University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926.
    (3) November 1, 2006; at the Main Branch, Public Library, 210 
Central Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225.
    (4) November 7, 2006; at the Cowlitz County Public Utility District 
Office, 961 12th Avenue, Longview, WA 98632.
    (5) November 8, 2006; at the National Marine Fisheries Service, 
7600 Sand Point Way, NE., Seattle, WA 98115.

Statutory Authority

    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1538) and implementing regulations prohibit the taking of 
endangered species. The term ``take'' is defined under the ESA (16 
U.S.C. 1532(19)) as 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, or 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, or sheltering (64 FR 60727, November 8, 
    Section 10 of the ESA and implementing regulations specify 
requirements for the issuance of incidental take permits (ITPs) to non-
Federal applicants for the take of endangered and threatened species. 
Any proposed take must be incidental to otherwise lawful activities and 
must not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery 
of the species in the wild. In addition, the applicant must prepare a 
habitat conservation plan (HCP) describing the impact that will likely 
result from such taking, what steps will be taken to minimize and 
mitigate the impacts of 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 number 
of covered species; 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 effects 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 WDNR 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.
    Approximately 2.4 million acres in Washington are state-owned 
aquatic lands managed by the WDNR, that include tidelands, shorelands, 
and bedlands. Nearly all of the freshwater and marine bedlands, 
approximately 30 percent of the tidelands, and approximately 70 percent 
of the shorelands of the navigable lakes and rivers in Washington are 
under state ownership. The WDNR authorizes a wide variety of activities 
undertaken by individuals, businesses, and government entities, and 
conducts activities on state-owned aquatic lands, such as derelict 
vessel removal, control of aquatic nuisance species, identification and 
management of areas for conservation or restoration, designation of 
aquatic reserves, and aquaculture of shellfish and finfish.
    Several species of fish, birds, marine mammals, and other species 
that use habitat on state-owned aquatic land have been listed as 
threatened, endangered, species of concern, or candidate species by 
Federal or state

[[Page 62252]]

governments. Federally threatened or endangered species within the 
proposed HCP area include the bald eagle, marbled murrelet, western 
snowy plover, bull trout, killer whale, and several species of 
    The species under consideration for coverage in the HCP include the 
brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus), marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), bull trout 
(Salvelinus confluentus), western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus 
nivosus), western toad (Bufo boreas), Columbia spotted frog (Rana 
luteiventris), northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens), western pond 
turtle (Clemmys marmorata), black tern (Chlidonias niger), common loon 
(Gavia immer), harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), Dolly Varden 
(Salvelinus malma), Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha), chum 
salmon (O. keta), coastal cutthroat trout (O. clarkii clarkii), coho 
salmon (O. kisutch), pink salmon (O. gorbuscha), sockeye/kokanee salmon 
(O. nerka), steelhead (O. mykiss), and killer whale (Orcinus orca).
    The draft HCP to be prepared by WDNR in support of the ITP 
applications will describe the impacts of take on proposed covered 
species and propose a conservation strategy to minimize and mitigate 
those impacts to the maximum extent practicable. With assistance from 
the Services, WDNR will develop habitat conservation measures for fish 
and wildlife and their associated habitats. The Services are 
responsible for determining whether the HCP satisfies the ESA section 
10 permit issuance criteria.
    Under NEPA, a reasonable range of alternatives to the 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 this alternative, ITPs would not be 
issued by the Services and the HCP would not be approved. WDNR would 
continue managing and leasing state-owned aquatic lands in accordance 
with current practices, and no specific management strategies would be 
implemented to ensure compliance with the ESA. The WDNR would not 
conduct a direct evaluation under the ESA of the effects of its 
management actions, nor would it consider the cumulative effects of its 
    Alternative 2: Proposed Alternative--Development of an HCP and 
issuance of ITPs by FWS and NOAA authorizing covered activities in 
freshwater, marine, and estuarine environments, provided all legal 
requirements are met. A preliminary list of activities under 
consideration for coverage includes: aquaculture of finfish and 
shellfish; complex, water-dependent activities (such as marinas, 
shipyards, and terminals); overwater structures; public access; log 
booming and storage; commercial sand and gravel removal; and small-
scale mining.
    Alternative 3: Development of an HCP and issuance of ITPs by each 
agency limiting covered activities to those in marine and estuarine 
environments, provided all legal requirements are met. The activities, 
species, and area covered under this alternative would generally be a 
subset of those included under Alternative 2, and the HCP would focus 
on those species most likely to be affected.
    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 meetings will allocate time for presentations by the Services 
and WDNR, 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 is 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 aquatic lands that should or should not be covered; and 
appropriate minimization and mitigation efforts. NMFS and FWS estimate 
that the draft EIS will be available for public review by January 2008.
    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 Jo Ellen Henry, FWS, at 360-753-
7766 or John Stadler, NMFS, at 360-753-9576. To allow sufficient time 
to process requests, please call no later than 1 week before the public 
meeting. Information regarding the applicant's proposed action is 
available in alternative formats upon request.

    Dated: October 4, 2006.
David J. Wesley,
Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, 
Portland, Oregon.
    Dated: September 28, 2006.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 06-8860 Filed 10-23-06; 8:45 am]