[Federal Register: July 3, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 129)]
[Page 38243-38245]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2008-N00170; 1112-0000-81420-F2]

Sonoma County Office of Education Habitat Conservation Plan, 
Dutton Avenue School, City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: proposed low-effect habitat 
conservation plan; request for comment.


SUMMARY: The Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE or applicant) has 
applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for a 5-year 
incidental take permit for two species pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) 
of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 
application addresses the potential for ``take'' of one listed animals 
and one listed plant. The applicant would implement a conservation 
program to minimize and mitigate the project activities, as described 
in the SCOE Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan (plan). We request 
comments on the applicant's application and plan, and the preliminary 
determination that the plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' habitat 
conservation plan, eligible for a Categorical Exclusion under the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). We 
discuss our basis for this determination in our Environmental Action 
Statement (EAS), which is also available for public review.

DATES: We must receive written comments on or before August 4, 2008.

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Mike Thomas, Conservation 
Planning Branch, Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. 
Alternatively, you may send comments by facsimile to (916) 414-6713.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, or Eric Tattersall, 
Branch Chief, Conservation Planning Branch, at the address shown above 
or at 916-414-6600 (telephone).


Availability of Documents

    Copies of the permit application, plan, and EAS can be obtained 
from the individuals named above (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). 
Copies of these documents are available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during regular business hours, at the

[[Page 38244]]

Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

Public Availability of Comments

    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 can 
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.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing 
Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' of fish or wildlife species 
listed as endangered or threatened. ``Take'' is defined under the Act 
to include the following activities: To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, 
shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect listed animal species, or 
to attempt to engage in such conduct. However, under section 
10(a)(1)(B) 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 incidental take 
permits for endangered and threatened species, respectively, are in the 
Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.
    Although take of listed plant species is not prohibited under the 
Act, and therefore cannot be authorized under an incidental take 
permit, plant species may be included on a permit in recognition of the 
conservation benefits provided to them under a habitat conservation 
plan. All species included on the incidental take permit would receive 
assurances under the Services' ``No Surprises'' regulations (50 CFR 
17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5).
    The applicant seeks an incident take permit for covered activities 
within 4.42 acres of grassland and associated wetlands owned by SCOE 
located in Sonoma County, California. SCOE is requesting permits for 
take of one federally listed animal species, listed as endangered: 
Sonoma County Distinct Population Segment of the California tiger 
salamander (Ambystoma californiense) (tiger salamander). The federally 
listed plant species is the endangered Sebastopol meadowfoam 
(Limnathese vinculans) (meadowfoam). The proposed covered species do 
not include any wildlife species not currently listed under the Act. 
Collectively, both of these species are referred to as ``covered 
species'' in the plan.
    SCOE owns and manages lands in Sonoma County, California. Lands 
owned by SCOE include the proposed community school on 4.42 acres at 
3255 and 3261 Dutton Avenue in the City of Santa Rosa.
    Covered activities include the following: Grading and ground 
leveling, vegetation removal and planting, soil compaction, building 
construction and use of heavy equipment (including, but not limited to 
bulldozers, cement trucks, water trucks, and backhoes), erosion control 
structures (such as silt fencing and barriers), dust control (such as 
watering surface soils), construction of sidewalks and roads, 
trenching, and installation of utilities and irrigation systems.
    The applicant proposes to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the effects 
to the covered species associated with the covered activities by fully 
implementing the plan. Minimization measures will include, but are not 
limited to, an employee education program; biological monitoring during 
construction and earthmoving; a storm water, erosion, and dust control 
plan; daily pre-activity surveys for listed species; tiger salamander 
salvage in the winter prior to construction, to exclude tiger 
salamanders from the site and work areas; and temporary removal of 
covered species if they are observed within work areas. General 
minimization measures will include: limiting staging and work areas to 
the project site only, regular removal of all foods and food-related 
trash, prohibiting pets from the project site during construction, a 15 
mile-per-hour speed limit for vehicles, maintenance of all equipment to 
avoid fluid leaks, and storage of all hazardous materials in sealable 
containers at least 200 feet from aquatic habitats.


    The Service's proposed action consists of approving the applicant's 
plan and issuance of an incidental take permit for the applicant's 
Covered Activities. As required by the Act, the applicant's plan 
considers alternatives to the take under the proposed action. The plan 
considers the environmental consequences of two alternatives to the 
proposed action, the No Action alternative and the Reduced Take 
alternative. Under the No Action Alternative, no permit would be 
issued, the proposed school project would not be built, and no take 
would occur.
    Under the Reduced Take alternative, buildings and facilities would 
be clustered closer together to reduce the amount of tiger salamander 
and meadowfoam habitat that would be lost by construction of the 
school. Direct affects due to habitat loss and take of individuals 
would be reduced; however, indirect affects to tiger salamander 
migration corridors are unlikely to be minimized by clustering because 
existing pathways for migration are limited on all sides except to the 
north (there are two vacant grassland parcels to the north, which are 
in turn bordered by development) and any additional construction, 
regardless of location on the site would likely further restrict 
movement of tiger salamanders. In addition, grassland and wetland 
habitat avoided on-site would be unlikely to support a viable 
population of tiger salamanders or meadowfoam due to the small size of 
the site, lack of hydrologic connection to other water bodies, and 
blockage of movement corridors.
    Under the proposed action alternative, the Service would issue an 
incidental take permit for the applicant's proposed project, which 
includes the activities described above. The proposed action 
alternative would result in permanent loss of 4.13 acres of upland 
tiger salamander habitat and 0.07 acres of seasonal wetland habitat. To 
mitigate for these affects, the applicant proposes to purchase 8.3 
tiger salamander credits and 0.105 meadowfoam credits at a Service 
approved bank.

National Environmental Policy Act

    As described in our EAS, we have made the preliminary determination 
that approval of the proposed plan and issuance of the permit would 
qualify as a categorical exclusion under NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), 
as provided by Federal regulations (40 CFR 1500, 5(k), 1507.3(b)(2), 
1508.4) and the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2 and 516 DM 
8). Our EAS found that the proposed plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' 
habitat conservation plan, as defined by the Service's Habitat 
Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). Determination of low-
effect habitat conservation plans is based on the following three 
criteria: (1) Implementation of the proposed plan would result in minor 
or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate 
species and their habitats; (2) implementation of the proposed plan 
would result in minor or negligible effects on other environmental 
values or resources; and (3) impacts of the plan, considered together 
with the impacts of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable 
similarly situated projects, would not result, over time, in cumulative 
effects to environmental values or resources that would be

[[Page 38245]]

considered significant. Based upon the preliminary determinations in 
the EAS, we do not intend to prepare further NEPA documentation. We 
will consider public comments when making the final determination on 
whether to prepare an additional NEPA document on the proposed action.

Public Review

    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and the 
NEPA public-involvement regulations (40 CFR 1500.1(b), 1500.2(d), and 
1506.6). We will evaluate the permit application, including the plan, 
and comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application 
meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements 
are met, we will issue a permit to the applicant for the incidental 
take of the Sonoma Distinct Population Segment of the California tiger 
salamander and the Sebastopol meadowfoam from the implementation of the 
covered activities described in the plan, or from mitigation conducted 
as part of this plan. We will make the final permit decision no sooner 
than 30 days after the date of this notice.

    Dated: June 27, 2008.
 Cay C. Goude,
Acting Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. E8-15110 Filed 7-2-08; 8:45 am]