[Federal Register: August 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 150)]
[Page 44307-44309]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt 
of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Woodville Solid 
Waste Disposal Site Expansion Project in Tulare County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: The County of Tulare Resource Management Agency, Solid Waste 
Division (Applicant) has applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) for an incidental take permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) 
of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Service is 
considering the issuance of a 41-year permit to the Applicant that 
would authorize take of nine species incidental to the Applicant's 
proposed landfill expansion and operation, groundwater monitoring 
activities, and conservation management activities at the Woodville 
Solid Waste Disposal Site in Tulare County, CA. These activities on the 
414-acre project area would result in the loss of up to 131 acres of 
covered species habitat.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application and 
an Environmental Assessment, both of which are available for review. 
The permit application includes the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan 
(Plan) and an accompanying Implementing Agreement. The Plan describes 
the proposed project and the measures that the Applicant would 
undertake to minimize and mitigate take of the covered species.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before October 3, 

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Lori Rinek, Chief, 
Conservation Planning and Recovery Division, Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, 
Sacramento, California 95825. Comments may also be sent by facsimile to 

[[Page 44308]]

Biologist, or Lori Rinek, Chief, Conservation Planning and Recovery 
Division, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, at 916-414-6600.


Availability of Documents

    Copies of these documents can be obtained for review by contacting 
the individuals named above [see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT]. 
Documents also will be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office 


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. Take 
of federally listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act to 
include the following activities: harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any 
such conduct. The Service may, under limited circumstances, issue 
permits to authorize incidental take (i.e., take that is incidental to, 
and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful 
activity). Regulations governing incidental take permits for endangered 
species are found in 50 CFR 17.22.
    The Applicant is seeking a permit for take of two federally listed 
species: the endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) 
and the threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi). The 
proposed permit would also authorize future incidental take of seven 
currently unlisted animal species: western burrowing owl (Athene 
cunicularia hypugea), midvalley fairy shrimp (Branchinecta 
mesovallensis), San Joaquin tiger beetle (Cicindela tranquebarica), 
Hopping's blister beetle (Lytta hoppingi), moestan blister beetle 
(Lytta moesta), molestan blister beetle (Lytta molesta), and Morrison's 
blister beetle (Lytta morrisoni). The following four unlisted plant 
species are also proposed to be included on the permit: erect-stemmed 
heartscale (Atriplex erecticaulis), lesser saltscale (Atriplex 
miniscula), San Joaquin brittlescale (Atriplex subtilis), and recurved 
larkspur (Delphinium recurvatum), should any of these species become 
listed under the Act during the life of the permit. Take of listed 
plant species is not prohibited under the Act and cannot be authorized 
under a section 10 permit. However, plant species may be included on 
the permit in recognition of the conservation benefits provided for 
them under the Plan. These species would also receive ``No Surprises'' 
assurances under the Service's ``No Surprises'' regulation (50 CFR 
17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)). Collectively, the 13 listed and unlisted 
species are referred to as the ``covered species'' in the Plan.
    The Applicant proposes to expand its existing landfill, the 
Woodville Solid Waste Disposal Site, which has nearly reached capacity. 
Project activities that are proposed for coverage under the Plan 
consist of the following components: (1) The development of additional 
waste management units (landfill); (2) implementation of a groundwater 
testing and monitoring program; (3) construction of operations 
facilities and creation of a borrow area, a retention basin, and a 
potential ground water remediation area; (4) establishment of 
conservation areas to compensate for impacts on covered species 
habitat; and (5) management activities on the conservation areas, 
including continued agricultural operations in one area and 
implementation of possible fire management activities. The facility is 
projected to reach capacity approximately 41 years after expansion 
    Project activities would result in the loss of 53.32 acres of 
suitable grassland habitat for the covered species (including 1.77 
acres of vernal pool wetlands) and an additional loss of 77.58 acres of 
agricultural habitat which is not likely to function as kit fox denning 
habitat, but which can be used by kit foxes for foraging or movement.
    Western burrowing owls and the covered plant species were observed 
in the project area. No other covered animal species was known to occur 
at the time of reconnaissance surveys, although suitable habitat exists 
and the site may be used for foraging and/or reproduction. The 
construction and operation of the facilities is unlikely to result in 
direct mortality or injury of San Joaquin kit foxes, but may result in 
take in the form of harassment.
    The Applicant proposes to implement specific on-site measures to 
avoid and minimize take and associated adverse project impacts to 
covered species. The Applicant also proposes to mitigate for take by 
establishing two permanent conservation areas; deed restrictions will 
be established on 158.26 acres of grassland (which include 5.35 acres 
of vernal pools) and on 124.95 acres of agricultural habitat suitable 
for kit fox foraging. Activities associated with management of the 
conservation areas include survey activities, possible fire management 
activities, and ongoing farming activities on the agricultural area. 
Additionally, a research program will be implemented to study the 
structure, dynamics, and ecology of alkali scalds. This research 
program has been accepted by the Service as an appropriate action for 
the adaptive management of vernal pool fairy shrimp and mid-valley 
fairy shrimp due to the uncertainty regarding the species' presence and 
life history in the alkali pool type found in the project area. This 
research is designed to determine occurrence of fairy shrimp species in 
this habitat type and study the physical nature of alkali scalds to 
identify the specific parameters that promote or restrict species 
    The Service's Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of three alternatives. The Proposed Project Alternative 
consists of the issuance of the incidental take permit and 
implementation of the Plan and Implementing Agreement for the 
Applicant's proposed project which includes the activities described 
above. This preferred alternative would take 53.32 acres of grassland 
habitat and 77.58 acres of agricultural habitat. Mitigation for this 
alternative includes on-site preservation of 158.26 acres of grassland 
habitat and 124.95 acres of agricultural habitat. Under this 
alternative, the Applicant also proposes to implement a research 
program informing the adaptive management of vernal pool shrimp in 
alkali pool types.
    Under Alternative 2, a Section 10 permit would be issued and the 
multi-species Plan and Implementing Agreement would be implemented for 
an alternative proposed project which comprises the same components as 
described in the Proposed Project Alternative except for the 
implementation of an alkali scalds research program. Because the 
research program itself would not affect any of the resources analyzed 
in the EA, the impacts associated with implementation of Alternative 2 
are identical to those described for the Proposed Project Alternative.
    Under the No Action alternative, no Section 10 permit would be 
issued and the multi-species HCP would not be implemented. This 
alternative would result in the closure of the Woodville landfill 
facility and implementation of a final landfill closure plan in 
accordance with applicable regulations. The Woodville landfill would 
permanently close and no conservation areas would be established. The 
closure plan would require the establishment of a borrow area for the 
dirt necessary to properly

[[Page 44309]]

build and close the existing landfill, which would result in the loss 
of special-status plant species and suitable habitat for covered animal 
species. Groundwater monitoring activities could also adversely affect 
vegetation and wildlife. No conservation areas would be protected.
    A number of other project alternatives that would meet the County's 
need to provide increased refuse disposal were also considered and 
eliminated for reasons described in the Environmental Assessment.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act and 
the regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 
(40 CFR 1506.6). All comments that we receive, including names and 
addresses, will become part of the official administrative record and 
may be made available to the public. We will evaluate the application, 
associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to determine 
whether the application meets the requirements of NEPA regulations and 
section 10(a) of the Act. If we determine that those requirements are 
met, we will issue a permit to the Applicant for the incidental take of 
the covered species. We will make our final permit decision no sooner 
than 60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: July 31, 2006.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
 [FR Doc. E6-12592 Filed 8-3-06; 8:45 am]