[Federal Register: July 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 145)]
[Page 42872-42874]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement/
Environmental Impact Report on the Bair Island Restoration and 
Management Plan, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge 
and the Bair Island State Ecological Reserve, San Mateo County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public of the availability of the 
Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (Final 
EIS/EIR) for the Bair Island Restoration and Management Plan. The 
Record of Decision will be signed no sooner than 30 days after this 
    The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the California 
Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) plan to restore to tidal action 
1,400 acres of former salt ponds on Bair Island, a unit of the Don 
Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) and the 
Bair Island State Ecological Reserve in South San Francisco Bay. The 
restoration would involve breaching existing former commercial salt 
pond levees, adding flow restricters to Corkscrew Slough, and adding 
wildlife-oriented public use facilities. It could also include 
rerouting Smith Slough to its former slough bed and raising the bottom 
elevation of Inner Bair Island with dredge and/or fill material or 
adding water control structures to Inner Bair Island.

DATES: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notice officially 
starts the 30-day waiting period for these documents. It is the goal of 
the Service to have our notice published on the same date as the EPA 
notice. However, if that does not occur, the date of the EPA notice 
will determine the closing date for the Final EIS/EIR. The 30-day 
waiting period will end on August 28, 2006. Written comments should be 
received on or before this date.

ADDRESSES: The Final EIS/EIR can be viewed on the South Bay Salt Pond 
Restoration Project Web site at http://www.southbayrestoration.org/Bair-EIR-EIS.html.
 Copies of the Final EIS/EIR are also available for 

review at the following government offices and libraries:
    Government Offices--Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife 
Refuge at the headquarters, 1 Marshlands Road, Fremont, 
California 94536, (510) 792-0222; Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR 
Environmental Education Center, 1751 Grand Boulevard, Alviso, 
California 95002, (408) 262-5513; California Department of Fish and 
Game, 7329 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 944-5500.
    Libraries--Redwood City Library 1044 Middlefield Road, Redwood 
City, California 94063, (650) 780-1077; San Carlos Library 610 Elm 
Street, San Carlos, California 94070, (650) 591-0341.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Clyde Morris, Refuge Manager, Don 
Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR, P.O. Box 524, Newark, California 94560, 
(510) 792-0222.


[[Page 42873]]


    Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the 
Service prepared a Final EIS evaluating the impacts of restoring and 
managing up to 1,400 acres of former salt ponds to tidal wetland in San 
Francisco Bay.
    The Bair Island Complex is divided into three distinct areas 
separated by slough channels: Inner, Middle, and Outer Bair. Inner Bair 
Island is connected to the mainland with access from Whipple Avenue and 
U.S. Highway 101. Inner Bair Island is separated from Middle Bair by 
Smith Slough, which in turn is separated from Outer Bair by Corkscrew 
    Historically, Bair Island was part of a large complex of tidal 
marshes and mud flats within the drainage of San Francisco Bay, Redwood 
Creek, and Steinberger Slough. Bair Island was diked in the late 1800's 
and early 1900's for agricultural purposes. It was converted to 
commercial salt ponds in 1946 and remained in production until 1965. 
The lands were then drained and sold to a series of real estate 
development companies. A local referendum in the City of Redwood City 
halted development plans for Bair Island. The CDFG and the Refuge both 
acquired portions of Bair Island over time. The Peninsula Open Space 
Trust purchased the majority of the remaining portions of Bair Island 
in 1999, and their interests were acquired by these agencies. Among 
several other landowners still remaining on Bair Island, the San Carlos 
Airport retains a portion of Inner Bair Island as a flight safety zone. 
In addition, two easements exist on Bair Island, for the Pacific Gas 
and Electric transmission towers and lines that run throughout the site 
and for the South Bayside System Authority (SBSA) force main that runs 
underneath most of the southern part of the levee on Inner Bair Island. 
Pedestrians and bicyclists currently use the top of the Inner Bair 
Island levee as a 3-mile loop trail with a \1/2\-mile trail cutting 
across Inner Bair Island during the dry season. Portions of Middle and 
Outer Bair Island are used for waterfowl hunting, but there is little 
fishing occurring. Redwood Creek and to a lesser extent, Smith, 
Corkscrew and Steinberger Sloughs, are popular recreational boating 
    The goal of the proposed Bair Island Restoration and Management 
Plan is to evaluate options to restore Bair Island to a tidal salt 
marsh to provide habitat for endangered species and other native 
wildlife, as well as to enhance the public's appreciation and awareness 
of the unique resources at Bair Island. Once restored, the site will 
assist with the preservation and recovery of both the California 
clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. These two species were 
listed by the Service as endangered on October 13, 1970.
    The restoration of Bair Island would take place in phases. The 
first phase would be breaching of Outer Bair Island at one location on 
Steinberger Slough near its entrance to San Francisco Bay. The second 
phase would be restoration of Inner and Middle Bair Island. The third 
phase, which could take place during or after the first two phases, 
would be the construction of wildlife-oriented public use facilities.
    On March 27, 2000, the Service published a Notice of Intent to 
prepare an EIS in the Federal Register (59 FR 16217). Scoping 
activities included a public scoping meeting on April 27, 2000. 
Comments received in response to this notice were incorporated into the 
Draft EIS/EIR.
    On August 27, 2004, the Service published a Notice of Availability 
of the Draft EIS/EIR in the Federal Register (69 FR 52730). A public 
meeting to accept comments on the draft document was held on September 
22, 2004. In the Draft EIS/EIR, we proposed to restore 1,400 acres of 
former commercial salt pond to tidal wetlands on Outer, Middle and 
Inner Bair Island. Wildlife-oriented public use improvements were also 
proposed. Project impacts were also described in the Draft EIS/EIR.

Development of the Final EIS

    The Draft EIS/EIR was jointly developed with CDFG, which owns a 
portion of the lands to be restored on Bair Island. All comments 
received by either the Service or the CDFG are included and considered 
in the Final EIS/EIR. A total of 31 comment letters were received from 
organizations or individuals. The Final EIS/EIR incorporates all 
changes or additions to the draft into one complete document.
    The Analysis provided in the Final EIS/EIR is intended to 
accomplish the following: Inform the public of the proposed action; 
address public comments received on the Draft EIS/EIR; disclose the 
direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of the proposed 
actions; and indicate any irreversible commitment of resources that 
would result from implementation of the proposed action.

Alternatives Analyzed

    The Final EIS/EIR considers five alternatives: A. No-Action 
Alternative, Alternative 1: Tidal Marsh Restoration with Moderate 
Public Access Alternative (Proposed Action), Alternative 2: Tidal Marsh 
Restoration with Restricted Public Access Alternative, Alternative 3: 
Tidal and Managed Marsh Restoration with Moderate Public Access 
Alternative, and Alternative 4: Tidal and Managed Marsh with Restricted 
Public Access Alternative.
    Under the No-Action alternative, the Refuge would discontinue 
ongoing levee maintenance and would not repair any levee breaks. The 
Refuge would work with the San Carlos Airport and the SBSA to protect 
their infrastructure on Inner Bair Island. The existing levees on 
Middle and Outer Bair Island would eventually breach, causing unmanaged 
tidal inundation of the ponds. This would result in several impacts to 
existing infrastructure. There would be an increase in the 
sedimentation rate of the Redwood Creek Shipping Channel, resulting in 
the need for more frequent dredging by the Port of Redwood City. At 
least in the short term, there would be an increase in the velocity 
rate of the tidal waters at the junction of Smith Slough and Redwood 
Creek, making use of the Pete's Harbor Marina more difficult. Ponding 
of water on Inner Bair Island would increase the bird strike issue for 
the San Carlos Airport. Approximately 1,400 acres of tidal salt marsh 
would eventually be restored, but the No-Action Alternative would delay 
restoration of the ponds to salt marsh by 20-100 years and, at least in 
the short term, result in poorer quality endangered species habitat 
being developed compared to the four action alternatives.
    In the short term (approximately 5 years), the No-Action 
alternative would provide limited public use consistent with protection 
of wildlife habitat and public safety. In the long term (approximately 
5 to 10 years), as the Inner Bair Island levee became unsafe, public 
use of the 3-mile trail would be eliminated and the area would be 
closed to public access. No additional public use infrastructure such 
as wildlife viewing platforms and interpretive signage would be 
installed, and the Bair Island parking lot would be closed.
    In Alternative 1, the proposed action, the Tidal Marsh Restoration 
with Moderate Public Access Alternative, full tidal salt marsh 
restoration would occur on Outer, Middle and Inner Bair Island. The 
levees on Middle and Outer Bair Island would be breached. Dredge and/or 
fill material would be used to raise the elevation of Inner Bair Island 
to prevent increasing the bird strike issue for San Carlos Airport. 
Following dredge or fill material placement, the Inner Bair Island 
levee would be breached, restoring the historic meander

[[Page 42874]]

of Smith Slough to prevent unacceptable tidal velocities at Pete's 
Harbor Marina. A flow restricter would be installed in Corkscrew Slough 
to prevent increased sedimentation of the Redwood Creek Shipping 
Channel. Approximately 1,400 acres of tidal salt marsh would be 
restored more quickly than would occur under the No-Action Alternative 
for the endangered California clapper rail, salt marsh harvest mouse, 
and other native wildlife.
    A wildlife viewing platform with portage for small boats would be 
constructed at the flow restricter in Corkscrew Slough. A 5-mile-per-
hour speed limit and no-wake zone would be implemented in Smith and 
Corkscrew Slough to protect harbor seals and other sensitive wildlife. 
In addition to waterfowl hunting, Refuge guided trips would continue to 
be the only public access allowed on Outer and Middle Bair Island. On 
Inner Bair Island, 1.8 miles of trails on the levee, which would end at 
two wildlife platforms adjacent to Smith Slough, would replace the 3-
mile loop trail. A predator-resistant pedestrian bridge would be built 
from the existing parking lot to Inner Bair Island. The parking lot 
would be enlarged to accommodate school buses, a restroom and an 
information kiosk. The Whipple Avenue entrance would be closed to 
public access but maintained for emergency vehicle access. Pets (dogs 
only) would be allowed on the Inner Bair Island trails on a 6-foot 
leash. Future dog access to Bair Island will be determined during a 
test period of compliance with Refuge regulations designed to protect 
    As a result of comments made on the Draft EIS/EIR, Alternative 1 in 
the Final EIS/EIR differs from Alternative 1 in the Draft EIS/EIR in 
the following ways: (1) The public access trail on Inner Bair Island 
would be shortened from 2.7 miles to 1.8 miles; (2) a predator-
resistent pedestrian bridge would be added to directly connect the 
existing Bair Island Parking Lot to Inner Bair Island; (3) a 3-foot 
high berm or one strand fence would be added, to be placed between the 
public access area and the restored habitat; and (4) the existing 
parking lot would be enlarged to accommodate school buses, a restroom, 
and an information kiosk.
    Alternative 2, the Tidal Marsh Restoration with Restricted Public 
Access Alternative, would be the same as the Preferred Alternative 
(Alternative 1), except for the following: (1) No pets would be allowed 
on Inner Bair Island; (2) there would be a seasonal closure to boating 
in Corkscrew Slough to protect harbor seals; (3) no pedestrian bridge 
would be built from the Refuge parking lot and the parking lot would 
not be enlarged to accommodate school buses and a restroom; (4) an 
existing unimproved trail on the mainland from the Refuge parking lot 
to the Whipple Avenue trailhead would be improved, and Whipple Avenue 
would continue to be used as the primary public access route to Inner 
Bair Island; and (5) the 1.8-mile Inner Bair Island Trail would not 
extend east of Whipple Avenue, but would extend further along Smith 
Slough on the west side of Whipple Avenue, ending in one wildlife 
viewing platform along Smith Slough. Approximately 1,400 acres of tidal 
salt marsh would be restored more quickly than would occur under the 
No-Action Alternative for the endangered California clapper rail, 
endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, and other native wildlife.
    Alternative 3, the Tidal and Managed Marsh Restoration with 
Moderate Public Access Alternative, would be the same as Alternative 2 
except for the following: (1) Inner Bair Island would not be restored 
to tidal salt marsh; (2) Pets (dogs only) would be allowed on the Inner 
Bair Island trails on a 6-foot leash for a test period to determine 
compliance with Refuge regulations designed to protect wildlife; and 
(3) there would not be a seasonal closure of Corkscrew Slough to 
protect harbor seals. Using water control structures, managed salt 
marsh would be created on Inner Bair Island, a flow restricter would be 
built in Smith Slough to prevent an unacceptable increase in tidal 
velocity at Pete's Harbor Marina, and the slough would not be restored 
to its historic meander. Approximately 1,100 acres of tidal salt marsh 
would be restored on Outer and Middle Bair Island more quickly than 
would occur under the No-Action Alternative for the endangered 
California clapper rail, endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, and other 
native wildlife. Three hundred acres of managed salt marsh would be 
created on Inner Bair Island for the endangered salt marsh harvest 
mouse but no habitat would be created for the endangered California 
clapper rail.
    Alternative 4, the Tidal and Managed Marsh Restoration with 
Restricted Public Access Alternative, would be a mixture of 
Alternative's 2 and 3. The restoration of 1,100 acres of tidal salt 
marsh and 300 acres of managed salt marsh on Inner Bair Island would be 
the same as in Alternative 3. The public access would be the same as in 
Alternative 2.
    This notice is provided pursuant to regulations for implementing 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: July 19, 2006.
Alexandra Pitts,
Acting Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office.
[FR Doc. E6-12016 Filed 7-27-06; 8:45 am]