[Federal Register: November 13, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 218)]
[Page 63922-63924]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

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Fish and Wildlife Service

Final Recirculated Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental 
Environmental Impact Statement for the Coachella Valley Multiple 
Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation 
Plan, Riverside County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; final recirculated environmental impact 
report/supplemental environmental impact statement and multiple species 
habitat conservation plan.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, this notice 
announces the availability of the Final Recirculated Coachella Valley 
Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community 
Conservation Plan (MSHCP), Final Recirculated Environmental Impact 
Report/Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIR/EIS), and 
Implementing Agreement. The Coachella Valley Association of 
Governments, Coachella Valley Conservation Commission, County of 
Riverside, Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation 
District, Riverside County Parks and Open Space District, Riverside 
County Waste Management District, Coachella Valley Water District, 
Imperial Irrigation District, California Department of Transportation, 
California Department of Parks and Recreation, Coachella Valley 
Mountains Conservancy, and the cities of Cathedral City, Coachella, 
Indian Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and Rancho 
Mirage (Applicants) applied to the U.S. 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 permit is 
needed to authorize incidental take of listed animal species due to 
development and certain other activities in the approximately 1.1 
million acre Plan Area in the Coachella Valley of Riverside County, 
California. The Service is publishing this notice to inform the public 
of the proposed action and to make available for review the Final EIR/
EIS, which includes responses to public comments received on the March 
2007, Recirculated Draft EIR/Supplemental Final EIS.
    The MSHCP also incorporates a Public Use and Trails Plan, which 
includes proposals that address non-motorized recreation activities on 
Federal and non-Federal lands in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto 
Mountains. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a Cooperating Agency 
in this planning process and will use this Final EIR/EIS to make 
decisions on BLM-administered public lands pertaining to trail use in 
the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. The proposals constitute 
activity (implementation) level actions in furtherance of the 
California Desert Conservation Area Plan (1980), as amended, and the 
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Management Plan 
(2004). The BLM will issue a separate Record of Decision regarding non-
motorized recreation activities on public lands.

DATES: A Record of Decision will be signed no sooner than 30 days after 
the publication date of the EPA notice. Comments on the Final EIR/EIS 
must be received on or before December 13, 2007.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be sent to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 
Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, California 92011. You may also submit 
comments by facsimile to 760-431-9624.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Therese O'Rourke, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office above; telephone 


Availability of Documents

    Copies of the Final Recirculated MSHCP, Implementation Agreement, 
and Final EIR/EIS are available for public review, by appointment, 
during regular business hours, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office 
or at the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (see ADDRESSES). 
Copies are also available for viewing on the World Wide Web at http://www.cvmshcp.org
 and at the following locations:

    (1) Riverside County Planning Department: 4080 Lemon Street, 9th 
Floor, Riverside, California 92502.
    (2) Riverside County Planning: 82675 Hwy 111, Room 209, Indio, 
California 92201.
    (3) U.S. Bureau of Land Management: 690 Garnet Avenue, North Palm 
Springs, California 92258.
    (4) City of Palm Springs: 3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm 
Springs, California 92262.
    (5) City of Cathedral City: 68-700 Avenida Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral 
City, California 92234.
    (6) City of La Quinta: 78-495 Calle Tampico, La Quinta, California 
    (7) City of Rancho Mirage: 69825 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, 
California 92270.
    (8) City of Palm Desert: 73-510 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, 
California 92260.
    (9) City of Indio: 100 Civic Center Mall, Indio, California 92201.
    (10) City of Indian Wells: 44950 El Dorado Drive, Indian Wells, 
California 92210.
    (11) City of Coachella: 1515 Sixth Street, Coachella, California 
    (12) Cathedral City Public Library: 33520 Date Palm Drive, 
Cathedral City, California 92234.
    (13) Coachella Branch Library: 1538 7th Street, Coachella Valley, 
California 92260.
    (14) Indio Public Library: 200 Civic Center Mall, Indio, California 
    (15) Lake Tamarisk Branch Library: Lake Tamarisk Drive, Desert 
Center, California 92239.
    (16) La Quinta Public Library: 78080 Calle Estado, La Quinta, 
California 92253.
    (17) Mecca-North Shore Branch Library: 65250 Cahuilla, Mecca, 
California 92254.
    (18) Palm Springs City Library: 300 South Sunrise Way, Palm 
Springs, California 92262.
    (19) Rancho Mirage Public Library: 42-520 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho 
Mirage, California 92270.
    (20) Riverside County Library: Palm Desert Branch, 73-300 Fred 
Waring Drive Palm Desert, California 92260.
    (21) Thousand Palms Library: 72-715 La Canada Way, Thousand Palms, 
California 92276.
    (22) Coachella Valley Association of Governments: 73-710 Fred 
Waring Drive, Suite 200, Palm Desert, California 92260.

Background Information

    A permit is needed because section 9 of the Act and Federal 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of animal species listed as 
endangered or threatened. Take of listed animal species is defined 
under the Act to include kill, harm, or harass. Harm includes 
significant habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or 
injures listed animals by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering [50 CFR 17.3(c)]. 
Under limited circumstances, the Service may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take; i.e., take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, otherwise lawful activity. Although take of plant species is not 
prohibited under the Act, and therefore cannot be

[[Page 63923]]

authorized under an incidental take permit, plant species are proposed 
to be included on the permit in recognition of the conservation 
benefits provided to them under the MSHCP. Assurances provided under 
the No Surprises Rule at 50 CFR 17.3, 17.22(b)(5), and 17.32(b)(5) 
would extend to all species named on the permit. Regulations governing 
incidental take permits for threatened and endangered species are found 
in 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22, respectively.
    The EIR/EIS analyzes the impacts of the proposed implementation of 
the MSHCP by the Applicants. The Applicants seek an incidental take 
permit and assurances to incidentally take 22 animal species and 
assurances for 5 plants. Collectively, the 27 listed and unlisted 
species are referred to as ``Covered Species'' by the MSHCP and include 
5 plant species (2 endangered, 3 unlisted); 2 insect species (both 
unlisted); 1 fish species (endangered); 1 amphibian species 
(endangered); 3 reptile species (2 threatened, 1 unlisted); 11 bird 
species (3 endangered, 8 unlisted); and 4 mammal species (1 endangered 
and 3 unlisted).
    The federally listed species include the Coachella Valley milk-
vetch (Astragalus lentiginosus var. coachellae), triple-ribbed milk-
vetch (Astragalus tricarinatus), desert pupfish (Cyprinodon 
macularius), arroyo toad (Bufo californicus), desert tortoise (Gopherus 
agassizii), Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard (Uma inornata), Yuma 
clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis), southwestern willow 
flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), least Bell's vireo (Vireo 
bellii pusillus), and Peninsular bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis 
cremnobates). The Coachella Valley round-tailed ground squirrel 
(Spermophilus tereticaudus chlorus) is a Federal Candidate. The 
unlisted species include the Mecca aster (Xylorhiza cognate), Orocopia 
sage (Salvia greatae), Little San Bernardino Mountains linanthus 
(Linanthus maculates) or (Gilia maculata), Coachella Valley giant sand-
treader cricket (Macrobaenetes valgum), Coachella Valley Jerusalem 
cricket (Stenopelmatus cahuilaensis), flat-tailed horned lizard 
(Phrynosoma mcalli), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), crissal 
thrasher (Toxostoma crissale), Le Conte's thrasher (Toxostoma 
lecontei), gray vireo (Vireo vicinior), yellow warbler (Dendroica 
petechia brewsteri), yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens), summer 
tanager (Piranga rubra), California black rail (Laterallus 
jamaicensis), southern yellow bat (Lasiurus ega xanthinus), and Palm 
Springs pocket mouse (Perognathus longimembris bangsi).
    The Coachella Valley Association of Government's Executive 
Committee approved the Final Recirculated MSHCP on September 10, 2007. 
The MSHCP is intended to protect and sustain viable populations of 
native plant and animal species and their habitats in perpetuity 
through the creation of a reserve system, while accommodating continued 
economic development and quality of life for residents of the Coachella 
Valley. The MSHCP plan area includes the following eight incorporated 
cities: Cathedral City, Coachella, Indian Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Palm 
Desert, Palm Springs, and Rancho Mirage. It is one of two large, 
multiple-jurisdictional habitat-planning efforts in Riverside County, 
each of which constitutes a ``subregional'' plan under the State of 
California's NCCP Act, as amended.
    The MSHCP identifies the proposed reserve system, which would be 
established from lands within 21 conservation areas that are either 
adjacent or linked by biological corridors. When completed, the reserve 
system would include core habitat for Covered Species, essential 
ecological processes, and biological corridors and linkages to provide 
for the conservation of the proposed Covered Species.
    The MSHCP includes measures to avoid and minimize incidental take 
of the proposed Covered Species, emphasizing project design 
modifications to protect both habitats and species' individuals. A 
monitoring and reporting plan would measure the MSHCP's success based 
on achieving biological goals and objectives; thus, ensuring 
conservation keeps pace with development. The MSHCP also includes a 
management program, with adaptive management, which allows for changes 
in the conservation program if the biological species objectives are 
not met, or new information becomes available to improve the efficacy 
of the MSHCP's conservation strategy.
    Covered Activities, as described in the MSHCP, would include public 
and private development within the plan area that require discretionary 
actions by an Applicant, making them subject to consistency with MSHCP, 
regional transportation facilities, maintenance of and safety 
improvements on existing roads, the Circulation Elements of the 
Applicants, maintenance and construction of flood control facilities, 
and compatible uses in the reserve. The MSHCP makes provision for the 
inclusion of special districts and other non-Applicant entities in the 
permit with a certificate of inclusion.

Public Review

    The Service and the cooperating agency issued a notice of intent to 
prepare an EIR/EIS for the proposed MSHCP, on June 28, 2000 (65 FR 
39920); a notice of availability of the Draft Environmental Impact 
Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed MSHCP on 
November 5, 2004 (69 FR 64581); a notice of availability of the Final 
Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the 
proposed MSHCP on April 21, 2006 (71 FR 20719); and a notice of 
availability of the Recirculated Draft EIR/Supplemental Final EIS for 
the proposed MSHCP on March 30, 2007 (72 FR 15148) for a 60-day public 
comment period.
    The Recirculated Draft EIR/Supplemental Final EIS analyzed the 
potential environmental impacts that may result from the Federal action 
of authorizing incidental take anticipated to occur with implementation 
of the MSHCP, and identified various alternatives. We received 67 
comment letters on the Recirculated Draft EIR/Supplemental Final EIS. A 
response to each comment received in these letters has been included in 
Volume 5 of the Final EIR/EIS. The analysis provided in the Final EIR/
EIS is intended to accomplish the following: inform the public of the 
Service's proposed action and alternatives; address public comments 
received on the Recirculated Draft EIR/Supplemental Final EIS; disclose 
the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of our 
proposed action and alternatives; and indicate any irreversible 
commitment of resources that would result from implementation of the 
proposed action and alternatives. This notice is provided pursuant to 
section 10(a) of the Act and Service regulations for implementing 
National Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6).
    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you may 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.
    We will evaluate the permit application, associated documents, and 
public comments to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. The Service will then prepare 
a Record of Decision. A permit decision will be made no

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sooner than 30 days after the publication of this notice and completion 
of the Record of Decision.

    Dated: October 26, 2007.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
 [FR Doc. E7-22087 Filed 11-9-07; 8:45 am]