[Federal Register: August 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 150)]
[Page 44309-44310]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Preparation of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/
Environmental Impact Report in Support of an Application for the 
Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit to the Imperial Irrigation 
District, Imperial County, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) advises the public that we intend 
to gather information necessary to prepare a Supplemental Environmental 
Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) for the 
consideration of a Habitat Conservation Plan and application for an 
incidental take permit, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 as amended (ESA), including 
consideration of conservation measures for State-listed species to 
address the effects of the conservation and transfer of water from 
Imperial Irrigation District (IID) to the San Diego County Water 
Authority (SDCWA) and Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD). The 
Habitat Conservation Plan will cover a broad array of activities 
including: water conservation, water conveyance and drainage, operation 
and maintenance of the water conveyance system, system improvements, 
miscellaneous activities, and third party activities required to 
achieve the conservation and transfer of up to 200,000 acre-feet of 
water per year to the SDCWA and 100,000 acre-feet per year to the CVWD, 
and to meet the voluntary cap on IID's water use of 3.1 million acre-
feet per year from the Colorado River. The IID (Applicant) intends to 
request an incidental take permit for up to 96 listed and unlisted 
species of concern under specific provisions of the permit. In the case 
of unlisted species, the permit would provide coverage should these 
species be listed in the future.
    The Service provides this notice pursuant to the Council on 
Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural 
Provisions of the NEPA. The purpose of the Supplemental EIS/EIR is to 
provide any additional environmental assessment required to evaluate 
additions and changes to the Water Conservation and Transfer Project 
(Project) that have occurred since the approval of the Final EIS/EIR by 
the Bureau of Reclamation (Federal lead agency for the Project) and to 
support the application for an incidental take permit pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA by the Service. The Service is seeking 
suggestions and information from other agencies, affected tribes, and 
the public on the scope of issues to be considered in preparation of 
the Supplemental EIS/EIR. To satisfy both Federal and State 
environmental policy requirements, the Service as Federal lead agency 
and the IID as State lead agency under the California Environmental 
Quality Act (CEQA) are conducting this joint scoping process for the 
preparation of the supplemental environmental document.

DATES: The Service requests all scoping comments on this notice be 
received on or before September 5, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be addressed to Ms. Therese 
O'Rourke, Assistant Field Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, 6010 
Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, California 92011. You may also send 
comments by facsimile to telephone 760-431-5902.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Carol Roberts, Division Chief/
Salton Sea Coordinator, at the above address, or by phone at 760-431-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: IID is a customer-owned utility that 
provides irrigation water and power to the lower southeastern portion 
of the California desert. IID was established in 1911 to deliver 
Colorado River water to lands within the Imperial Valley, California, 
for agricultural, domestic, industrial, and other beneficial uses. IID 
maintains a complex system of delivery canals, laterals, and drains 
that serve over 450,000 acres of intensive agriculture. Agricultural 
drainage flows into the New and Alamo Rivers and into the Salton Sea, a 
designated repository for agricultural drainage.
    On April 29, 1998, IID and SDCWA executed an agreement for the 
conservation and transfer of up to 300,000 acre-feet of Colorado River 
water per year from IID to SDCWA. Subsequent negotiations with other 
Colorado River water rights holders in California resulted in the 
transfer amount to SDCWA being reduced to a maximum of 200,000 acre-
feet per year with the other 100,000 acre-feet per year going to the 
CVWD under the Quantification Settlement Agreement. As part of this 
agreement, IID is implementing a conservation program that includes the 
participation of Imperial Valley landowners and tenants so that on-farm 
as well as system-based conservation can be implemented to achieve the 
required level of conservation. This transfer is a key part of the 
California 4.4 Plan that will result in California water agencies using 
only their 4.4 million acre-foot apportionment of the Colorado River. 
California has been diverting up to 5.2 million acre-feet of Colorado 
River water per year.
    IID, as the CEQA lead agency, and the Bureau of Reclamation, as the 
NEPA lead agency, jointly issued a Draft EIR/EIS for the Project dated 
January 2002. The Bureau of Reclamation prepared and filed with the 
Environmental Protection Agency an integrated Final EIR/EIS dated 
October 2002. Prior to the Secretary of the Interior's issuance of a 
Record of Decision on October 10, 2003, relating to the Federal actions 
associated with the Project, the Bureau of Reclamation approved an 
Environmental Evaluation dated October 2003 that evaluated certain 
changes to the Project subsequent to their Final EIR/EIS.

[[Page 44310]]

    A joint Supplemental EIS/EIR is being prepared on behalf of the 
Service and IID to address the impacts associated with permit issuance 
for the covered activities included in the Habitat Conservation Plan. 
The consulting firm, CH2MHill has been selected to prepare the 
document. Additional information on the previously approved Project may 
be found in the Bureau of Reclamation's project documents including the 
amended Notice of Intent published at 65 FR 66557 (November 6, 2000), 
the Notice of Availability for the Draft Environmental Impact Report/
Environmental Impact Statement (67 FR 3732, January 25, 2002), and the 
Notice of Availability for the Final Environmental Impact Report/
Environmental Impact Statement (67 FR 68165, November 8, 2002), and the 
Draft and Final EIR/EISs themselves.
    Section 9 of the ESA and the Service regulations prohibit ``take'' 
of threatened or endangered fish and wildlife (16 U.S.C. 1538). Take 
means harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in such conduct (16 
U.S.C. 1532). Harm may include significant habitat modification that 
actually kills or injures fish and/or wildlife by significantly 
impairing essential behavior patterns including breeding, feeding, and 
sheltering [50 CFR 17.3(c)]. The Service, however, may issue permits to 
take endangered and/or threatened species of fish and wildlife 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities [50 
CFR 17.22 and 17.32]. Take authorization addressing water conservation 
and transfer activities for the federally-listed species only was 
previously provided through the Service's Biological Opinion on the 
Bureau of Reclamation's Voluntary Fish and Wildlife Conservation 
Measures and Associated Conservation Agreements with the California 
Water Agencies.
    Take of listed plant species is not prohibited under the ESA and 
cannot be authorized under an incidental take permit. We propose to 
include plant species on the permit in recognition of the conservation 
benefits provided for them under the plan. All species included on the 
permit would receive assurances under the Service's ``No Surprises'' 
regulation [50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)].
    We propose to issue a permit to IID authorizing the take of listed 
species to the otherwise lawful conservation and transference of up to 
200,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water per year to the SDCWA, 
conservation and transference of up to 100,000 acre-feet of Colorado 
River water per year to the CVWD, additional conservation necessary to 
achieve IID's cap of 3.1 million acre-feet per year on their use of 
Colorado River water, and operations and maintenance activities 
required to keep the water conveyance and drainage system functioning 
within the approximately 450,000 acres of agriculture in their Imperial 
Valley water service area.
    The permit application will include a Habitat Conservation Plan and 
an Implementing Agreement that define the responsibilities of all 
parties under the Plan. IID's Habitat Conservation Plan will include 
measures to minimize and mitigate impacts to covered species resulting 
from the covered activities. These measures are provided in a suite of 
conservation strategies designed to address the various vegetation 
communities and aquatic habitats used by covered species in the Plan 
area. In the Supplemental EIS/EIR we will consider IID's proposed 
Habitat Conservation Plan (Proposed Action Alternative) and the No 
Action Alternative (no permit issuance). The Bureau of Reclamation's 
Draft and Final EIR/EIS previously considered the impacts of a range of 
water conservation and transfer alternatives on federally listed 
species. The Supplemental EIS/EIR will address specific changes that 
have been incorporated since the issuance of the Bureau of 
Reclamation's Final EIR/EIS and any anticipated changes in 
environmental impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, 
water quality, and other environmental resources that could occur 
directly or indirectly with the implementation of the Habitat 
Conservation Plan.
    Currently, the IID intends to request a permit authorizing the 
incidental take of 86 animal species including the following nine 
federally listed species: desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius), 
razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus), desert tortoise (Gopherus 
agassizii), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalis), southwestern willow 
flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), brown pelican (Pelecanus 
occidentalis), Yuma clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis), 
California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni), and least Bell's 
vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus). The permit also would cover ten plant 
species including one federally listed species, Peirson's milk-vetch 
(Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii). We will evaluate the permit 
application, the Habitat Conservation Plan, Implementing Agreement, 
Supplemental EIS/EIR, associated documents, and comments submitted 
thereon to determine whether the application meets the requirements of 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. If we determine that the requirements 
have been met, we will issue a permit for the incidental take of 
covered listed species.
    Environmental review of the Supplemental EIS/EIR will be conducted 
in accordance with the requirements of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), 
its implementing regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other applicable 
regulations, and Service procedures for compliance with those 
regulations. We are publishing this notice pursuant to section 10(a) of 
the ESA and Service regulations for implementing the NEPA (40 CFR 
1501.7). The purpose of this notice is to obtain suggestions and 
information from other agencies, affected tribes, and the public 
regarding the proposed action. Written comments are invited to ensure 
that the full range of issues related to the proposed action is 
identified. All comments received, including names and addresses, will 
become part of the official administrative record and may be made 
available to the public.

    Dated: July 31, 2006.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. E6-12593 Filed 8-3-06; 8:45 am]