[Federal Register: April 30, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 84)]
[Page 23488-23489]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2008-N0063; 20124-1112-0000-F2]

Salt River Project; Horseshoe-Bartlett Habitat Conservation Plan, 
Maricopa and Yavapai Counties, AZ

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: final environmental impact statement, 
final habitat conservation plan, and proposed implementing agreement 
for incidental take.


SUMMARY: The Salt River Project (SRP) has submitted an application for 
an incidental take permit (ITP) for species currently listed under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA) and species that may 
become listed in the future (collectively, ``covered species''). The 
proposed take would occur in Maricopa and Yavapai Counties, Arizona, as 
a result of impacts on covered species and occupied habitat from 
modified operation of Horseshoe Dam and Reservoir (Horseshoe) and 
Bartlett Dam and Reservoir (Bartlett). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) has issued a final Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) to evaluate the impacts of and alternatives for the possible 
issuance of an ITP. SRP has completed the final Horseshoe-Bartlett 
Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), along with a proposed Implementing 
Agreement as part of the application package submitted to the Service 
(collectively, the ``Application'') as required by the ESA, for 
consideration of issuance of an ITP. The Application provides measures 
to minimize and mitigate the effects of the proposed taking of covered 
species and effects to the habitats upon which they depend.
    The final EIS includes all comments received on the draft EIS, and 
responses to those comments. No decision will be made on the proposed 
action until at least 30 days after publication of this notice of 
availability of the final EIS in the Federal Register. After the 30-day 
waiting period, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will complete a 
Record of Decision (ROD) that states the action that will be 
implemented and discusses all factors leading to the decision.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the final EIS and Application 
documents may obtain a copy by writing to Mr. Steve Spangle, Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, 
Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021.

State Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm 
Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021; 602/242-0210. Application: Mr. 
Charles Paradzick, Senior Ecologist, Salt River Project, P.O. Box 
52025, PAB352, Phoenix, AZ 85072-2025; 602/236-2724, or Mr. Craig 
Sommers, President, ERO Resources Corporation, 1842 Clarkson Street, 
Denver, CO 80218; 303/830-1188.
    Read-only downloadable copies of the final EIS and Application 
documents are available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/
southwest/es/arizona. A printed or CD copy of the documents is 
available upon request from Mr. Charles Paradzick, Salt River Project, 
P.O. Box 52025, Phoenix, AZ 85072-2025; (602) 236-2724; 
Charles.Paradzick@srpnet.com. Copies of the final EIS and Application 
are also available for public inspection and review at the locations 
listed below under Supplementary Information.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SRP has submitted an application for an ITP 
for the following covered species:
    (1) Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) 
    (2) Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus);
    (3) Yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)(cuckoo);
    (4) Razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus);
    (5) Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius);
    (6) Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis o. occidentalis);
    (7) Spikedace (Meda fulgida);
    (8) Loach minnow (Tiaroga cobitis);
    (9) Roundtail chub (Gila robusta);
    (10) Longfin dace (Agosia chrysogaster);
    (11) Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis);
    (12) Desert sucker (Catostomus clarki);
    (13) Speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus);
    (14) Lowland leopard frog (Rana yavapaiensis);
    (15) Northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops);
    (16) Narrow-headed gartersnake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus).
    Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), this 
notice advises the public that the Service has gathered the information 
necessary to determine impacts and formulate alternatives for the EIS, 
related to the potential issuance of an ITP to SRP and that SRP has 
developed and is prepared to implement the HCP, which provides measures 
to minimize and mitigate the effects of the incidental take of 
federally listed species to the maximum extent practicable, pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA.
    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits the ``taking'' of threatened and 
endangered species. However, the Service, under limited circumstances, 
may issue permits to take threatened or endangered wildlife species 
when such taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise 
lawful activities. Regulations governing permits for endangered species 
are at 50 CFR Parts 13 and 17.
    Copies of the final EIS and Application are available for public 
inspection and review at the following locations (by appointment only 
at government offices):
     Department of the Interior, Natural Resources Library, 
1849 C St., NW., Washington, DC 20240.
     U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 110 S. Church, Suite 3450, 
Tucson, AZ 85701.
     U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, 
Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021.
     Salt River Project, 1521 Project Drive, Tempe, AZ 85281.
     Flagstaff Public Library, 300 W. Aspen Ave., Flagstaff, AZ 
     Government Document Service, Arizona State University, 
Tempe, AZ 85287.
     Phoenix Public Library (Burton Barr Central), 1221 N. 
Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004.
     Cottonwood Public Library, 100 S. 6th St., Cottonwood, AZ 
     Camp Verde Public Library, 130 Black Bridge Loop Rd., Camp 
Verde, AZ 86322.
     Fountain Hills Library, 12901 N. La Montana Dr., Fountain 
Hills, AZ 85268.


    Horseshoe and Bartlett are operated by SRP in conjunction with four 
reservoirs on the Salt River and one reservoir on East Clear Creek as 
integral features of the Salt River Federal Reclamation Project, 
authorized by the Reclamation Act of 1902, and under a 1917 contract 
with the United States (43 U.S.C. 499). Since completion in the 1930s 
and 1940s, Horseshoe and Bartlett have provided water for irrigation,

[[Page 23489]]

municipal, and other uses. Currently, SRP reservoirs supply much of the 
water for the population of more than 2.6 million people in the cities 
of Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Glendale, Gilbert, Scottsdale, 
Tolleson, and Avondale. Water deliveries are also made under specific 
water rights in Horseshoe and Bartlett held by the City of Phoenix, the 
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and the Fort McDowell 
Yavapai Nation. In addition, water is provided to irrigate agricultural 
lands within SRP and for satisfaction of the independent water rights 
of Buckeye Irrigation Company, Gila River Indian Community, Roosevelt 
Irrigation District, Roosevelt Water Conservation District, and others. 
Horseshoe, Bartlett, and the other SRP reservoirs also provide a 
variety of recreational uses and environmental benefits in central 
    Due to dry conditions in central Arizona for the past 12 years, 
water levels in Horseshoe and Bartlett have been below normal. As a 
result, riparian trees and shrubs have grown in the Horseshoe storage 
space and have been colonized by a population of flycatchers, which are 
listed as endangered under the ESA. Thus, periodic refilling of the 
reservoir may adversely impact the habitat and nesting of the 
flycatcher as well as the cuckoo, which uses similar habitat. Also, 
nonnative fish produced in Horseshoe and Bartlett can adversely impact 
covered fish, frog, and gartersnake species through predation, 
competition, and alteration of habitat in the Verde River and portions 
of its tributaries.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is the issuance of an ITP for the covered 
species for SRP's modified operation of Horseshoe and Bartlett, under 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. The requested duration of the Permit is 
50 years. The areas covered by the Permit would include Horseshoe up to 
an elevation of 2,026 feet (ft), Bartlett up to an elevation of 1,748 
ft, the Salt River from Granite Reef Dam to the Verde River, most of 
the Verde River upstream from the Salt River, and portions of the Verde 
River tributaries. The action area for the EIS and HCP also includes 
mitigation lands acquired as part of the HCP.
    To meet the requirements of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit, SRP has 
developed and will implement the HCP, which provides modified operating 
objectives (termed the ``Optimum Operation Alternative'') to support 
stands of tall riparian vegetation at the upper end of Horseshoe to 
minimize impacts to covered bird species, and to manage Horseshoe water 
levels to minimize impacts to covered native fish, frog, and 
gartersnake species. The HCP also includes other measures to minimize 
and mitigate incidental take of the covered species to the maximum 
extent practicable, and which ensure that the incidental take will not 
appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of these 
species in the wild.


    Two other alternatives being considered by the Service include the 
    1. No Permit--No issuance of an ITP by the Service. This 
alternative would require SRP to do everything within its control to 
avoid any take of federally listed species associated with its 
continued operation of Horseshoe and Bartlett.
    2. Modified Historical Operation--Approval by the Service of an 
application for an ITP authorizing incidental take of threatened and 
endangered species associated with the operation of Horseshoe and 
Bartlett by SRP using historical operating objectives for the 
reservoirs, along with additional measures to minimize and mitigate the 
potential take of covered species.

Christopher T. Jones,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. E8-9405 Filed 4-29-08; 8:45 am]