[Federal Register: November 7, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 215)]
[Page 65123-65125]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for Issuance of 
an Incidental Take Permit Associated With a Habitat Conservation Plan 
for Pacific Gas & Electric Company's Operation, Maintenance, and Minor 
New Construction Activities in the San Francisco Bay Area, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we, 
the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) are issuing this notice to 
advise the public that we intend to gather information necessary to 
prepare, in coordination with the California Department of Fish and 
Game (DFG), and Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), a joint 
Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) on 
the PG&E San Francisco Bay Area Operations, Maintenance, and 
Construction Program (Plan). The Plan is being prepared under Section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, 
(Act). PG&E intends to request a permit to cover 66 species federally 
listed as threatened or endangered and 23 unlisted species that may 
become listed during the term of the permit. The permit is needed to 
authorize take of listed species that could occur as a result of 
implementation activities covered under the Plan.
    The Service provides this notice to: (1) Describe the proposed 
action and possible alternatives; (2) advise other Federal and State 
agencies, affected Tribes, and the public of our intent to prepare an 
EIS/EIR; (3) announce the initiation of a public scoping period; and 
(4) obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues and 
alternatives to be included in the EIS/EIR.

DATE: Written comments should be received on or before December 7, 
2006. Three public meetings will be held on:
    1. Tuesday, November 14, 2006 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Petaluma, CA.
    2. Wednesday. November 15, 2006 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Santa 
Clara, CA.
    3. Wednesday, November 15, 2006 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Walnut 
Creek, CA.

ADDRESSES: The public meetings will be held at the following locations:
    1. Tuesday, November 14, 2006, at the Petaluma Community Center, 
320 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma, CA 94954.
    2. Wednesday, November 15, 2006, at the Santa Clara City Hall-
Council Chambers, 1500 Warburton Avenue, Santa Clara, CA 95050.
    3. Wednesday November 15, 2006, at the Walnut Creek Public Library-
Ygnacio Valley, 2661 Oak Grove Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598.
    Information, written comments, or questions related to the 
preparation of the EIS/EIR and NEPA process should be submitted to Lori 
Rinek, Chief, Conservation Planning and Recovery Division, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage 
Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825; FAX 916-414-6713.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sheila Larsen, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, or Lori Rinek, Division Chief, Conservation Planning and 
Recovery Division, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office at 916-


Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meeting should contact Lori Rinek at 916-414-
6600 as soon as possible. In order to allow sufficient time to process 
requests, please call no later than one week before the public meeting. 
Information regarding this proposed action is available in alternative 
formats upon request.


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of a fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. 
Under the Act, the following activities are defined as take: 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. 1538). 
However, under section 10(a) of the Act, we may issue permits to 
authorize ``incidental take'' of listed species. ``Incidental take'' is 
defined by the Act as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing 
permits for threatened species and endangered species, respectively, 
are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 17.22.
    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 a permit in recognition of 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).
    Currently, PG&E intends to request a permit for 89 species under 
the Plan: 66 listed and 23 unlisted species (covered species). These 
include the endangered California freshwater shrimp (Syncaris 
pacifica), Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), vernal 
pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi), longhorn fairy shrimp 
(Branchinecta longiantenna), mission blue butterfly (Icaricia 
icarioides missionensis), callippe silverspot butterfly (Speyeria 
callippe callippe), Behren's silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene 
behrensii), Myrtle's silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene myrtleae), 
Lange's metalmark butterfly (Apodemia mormo langei), San Bruno elfin 
butterfly (Incisalia mossii bayensis), San Francisco garter snake 
(Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia), California clapper rail (Rallus 
longirostris obsoletus), California least tern (Sterna antillarum 
browni), salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris), San 
Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica), San Mateo thornmint 
(Acanthomintha duttonii), Sonoma alopecurus (Alopecurus aegualis var. 
sonomensis), marsh sandwort (Arenaria paludicola), Clara Hunt's milk-
vetch (Astragalus clarianus), Baker's stickyseed = Sonoma sunshine 
(Blennosperma bakeri), white sedge (Carex albida), Tiburon paintbrush = 
Tiburon Indian paintbrush (Castilleja affinis spp. neglecta), Coyote 
ceanothus (Ceanothus ferrisae), robust spineflower (Chorizanthe robusta 
ssp. robusta), fountain thistle (Cirsium fontinale var. fontinale), 
Presidio clarkia (Clarkia franciscana), Vine Hill clarkia (Clarkia 
imbricata), soft bird's-beak (Cordylanthus mollis ssp. mollis), 
palmate-bracted bird's-beak (Cordylanthus palmatus), Pennell's bird's-
beak (Cordylanthus tenuis ssp. capillaris), Baker's larkspur 
(Delphinium bakeri), yellow larkspur (Delphinium luteum), Santa Clara 
Valley dudleya (Dudleya setchellii), San Mateo woolly sunflower 
(Eriophyllum latilobum), Loch Lomond coyote-thistle (Eryngium 
constancei), Contra Costa

[[Page 65124]]

wallflower (Erysimum capitatum ssp. angustatum), Burke's goldfields 
(Lasthenia burkei), Contra Costa goldfields (Lasthenia conjugens), 
beach layia (Layia carnosa), San Francisco lessingia (Lessingia 
germanorum), Pitkin Marsh lily (Lilium pardalinum ssp. pitkinense), 
Sebastopol meadowfoam (Limnanthes vinculans), clover lupine = 
Tidestrom's lupine (Lupinus tidestromii), many-flowered navarretia 
(Navarretia leucocephala ssp. plieantha), Antioch dunes evening 
primrose (Oenothera deltoides ssp. howellii), white-rayed pentachaeta 
(Pentachaeta bellidiflora), Calistoga allocarya = Calistoga popcorn-
flower (Plagiobothrys strictus), Napa bluegrass (Poa napensis), 
Hickman's potentilla = Hickman's cinquefoil (Potentilla hickmanii), 
Kenwood Marsh checkermallow (Sidalcea oregana ssp. valida), Metcalf 
Canyon jewelflower (Streptanthus albidus ssp. albidus), Tiburon 
jewelflower (Streptanthus niger), California seablight (Suaeda 
californica), showy Indian clover (Trifolium amoneum), and Solano grass 
(Tuctoria mucronata); and the threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp 
(Branchinecta lynchi), bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha 
bayensis), valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus 
dimorphus), Delta green ground beetle (Elaphrus viridis), California 
red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), California tiger salamander 
(Ambystoma californiense), Alameda whipsnake (Masticophis lateralis 
euryxanthus), giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas), bald eagle 
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus), northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis 
caurina), marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), and Marin dwarf-
flax = Marin western flax (Hesperolinon congestum); and their habitats.
    The unlisted species proposed for coverage under the Plan include: 
golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), American peregrine falcon (Falco 
peregrinus anatum), Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni), white-tailed (= 
black-shouldered) kite (Elanus leucurus), western burrowing owl (Athene 
cunicularia hypugea), California black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis 
coturniculus), purple martin (Progne subis), tricolored blackbird 
(Agelaius tricolor), San Francisco (= salt marsh) common yellowthroat 
(Geothlypis trichas sinuosa), Alameda (= South Bay) song sparrow 
(Melospiza melodia pusillula), Baker's manzanita (Arctostaphylos bakeri 
ssp. bakeri), Vine Hill manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora), San 
Bruno Mountain manzanita (Arctostaphylos imbricata), Point Reyes 
stickyseed = Point Reyes blennosperma (Blennosperma nanum var. 
robustum), Pitkin Marsh Indian paintbrush (Castilleja uliginosa), 
Geysers dichanthelium (Dichanthelium lanuginosum var. thermale), Boggs 
Lake hedge-hyssop (Gratiola heterosepala), Mason's lilaeopsis 
(Liliaeopsis masonii), Point Reyes meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii 
ssp. sulphurea), Dudley's lousewort (Pedicularis dudleyi), San 
Francisco popcorn-flower (Plagiobothrys diffusus), North Coast 
semaphore grass (Pleuropogon hooverianus), and rock sanicle (Sanicula 
saxatilis). Species may be added or deleted during the course of Plan 
development based on further analysis, new information, agency 
consultation, and public comment.
    The Plan area includes the network of PG&E facilities in nine Bay 
Area Counties (Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, 
Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco) and includes approximately 
75,000 acres surrounding electric transmission facilities, 34,000 acres 
surrounding gas transmission facilities, and 500,000 acre areas 
surrounding electric and gas distribution facilities.
    Activities that may be covered under the Plan include a variety of 
tasks associated with the operation, maintenance, and minor new 
construction of PG&E's gas and electric transmission and distribution 
system as mandated for public safety by the California Public Utilities 
Commission, the California Energy Commission, and the California 
Department of Transportation. More specifically, these activities may 
include: gas pipeline protection, recoating, repair and replacement; 
electric line protection, repair, reconductoring, and replacement; 
electric pole repair/replacement; vegetation management to maintain 
clearances around facilities; and minor construction for new gas and 
electric extensions. The Plan would not cover operation, maintenance, 
or construction of power generation facilities. Under the Plan, the 
effects on covered species of the covered activities are expected to be 
minimized and mitigated through participation in a conservation 
program, which will be fully described in the Plan. This conservation 
program would focus on providing long-term protection of covered 
species by protecting biological communities in the Plan area.
    Components of this conservation program are now under consideration 
by the Service and PG&E. These components will likely include: 
avoidance and minimization measures, monitoring, adaptive management, 
and mitigation measures consisting of preservation, restoration and 
enhancement of habitat. The Service anticipates that PG&E will request 
a permit duration of 30 years.

Environmental Impact Statement/Report

    PG&E and the Service have selected North State Resources to prepare 
the Draft EIS/EIR. The joint document will be prepared in compliance 
with NEPA and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Although 
North State Resources will prepare the EIS/EIR, the Service will be 
responsible for the scope and content of the document for NEPA 
purposes, and DFG will be responsible for the scope and content of the 
CEQA document, as the state lead agency pursuant to CEQA and the 
permitting entity pursuant to the California Endangered Species Act and 
Fish and Game Code 2081.
    The EIS/EIR will consider the proposed action (i.e., the issuance 
of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit under the Act), and a reasonable range 
of alternatives. A detailed description of the proposed action and 
alternatives will be included in the EIS/EIR. It is anticipated that 
several alternatives will be developed, which may vary by the level of 
conservation, impacts caused by the proposed activities, permit area, 
covered species, or a combination of these factors. Additionally, a No 
Action alternative will be considered. Under the No Action alternative, 
the Service would not issue a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit.
    The EIS/EIR will also identify potentially significant impacts on 
land use and planning, agricultural resources, biological resources, 
aesthetics, geology and soils, water resources, cultural resources, 
transportation and circulation, noise and vibration, air quality, 
public health/environmental hazards, recreation, environmental justice, 
socioeconomics, and other environmental issues that could occur 
directly or indirectly with implementation of the proposed action and 
alternatives. For all potentially significant impacts, the EIS/EIR will 
identify mitigation measures where feasible to reduce these impacts to 
a level below significance.
    Environmental review of the EIS/EIR will be conducted in accordance 
with the requirements of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), its 
implementing regulations (40 CFR 1500-1508), other applicable 
regulations, and Service procedures for compliance with those 
regulations. This notice is being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 
1501.7 of NEPA to obtain suggestions

[[Page 65125]]

and information from other agencies and the public on the scope of 
issues and alternatives to be addressed in the EIS/EIR. The primary 
purpose of the scoping process is to identify important issues raised 
by the public, related to the proposed action. Written comments from 
interested parties are invited to ensure that the full range of issues 
related to the permit request are identified. Only written comments 
will be accepted at the public meeting.
    In addition, you may submit written comments by mail or facsimile 
transmission (see ADDRESSES). Our practice is to make comments, 
including names, home addresses, home phone numbers, and e-mail 
addresses of respondents, available for public review. Individual 
respondents may request that we withhold their names and /or homes 
addresses, etc., but if you wish us to consider withholding this 
information you must state this prominently at the beginning of your 
comments. In addition, you must present a rationale for withholding 
this information. This rationale must demonstrate that disclosure would 
constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. Unsupported 
assertions will not meet this burden. In the absence of exceptional, 
documentable circumstances, this information will be released. We will 
always make submissions from organization or businesses, and from 
individuals identifying themselves as representatives of or officials 
of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in 
their entirety.

    Dated: October 27, 2006.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. E6-18704 Filed 11-6-06; 8:45 am]