[Federal Register: May 2, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 86)]
[Page 24302-24303]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Cullinan Ranch Unit Restoration Project, San Pablo Bay National 
Wildlife Refuge, Solano County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments: Draft 
environmental impact statement and environmental impact report.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the 
California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) are proposing a 
restoration plan for 1,500 acres (ac) of former hayfield farm land in 
the San Pablo Bay. This restoration project would combine tidal salt 
marsh habitat for endangered species, waterfowl, waterbirds, and fish, 
as well as public access features to increase accessibility to wildlife 
resource values in the San Pablo Bay, while minimizing project-induced 
flood impacts to Highway 37. In accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), this notice advises other 
agencies, Tribes, and the public that the draft environmental impact 
statement and environmental impact report (DEIS/EIR) on the proposed 
tidal marsh restoration project at Cullinan Ranch, a unit of the San 
Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), Solano and Napa Counties, 
California, is now available for review. We invite and encourage 
interested persons to review the document and submit written comments 
to identify issues related to the alternatives we address in the DEIS/

DATES: We must receive written comments at the address below on or 
before June 17, 2008. You may submit comments by any one of the methods 
we describe under ADDRESSES. We will hold a public meeting in May 2008, 
to solicit comments. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for more 

ADDRESSES: The Draft EIS/EIR is available for review at:
     Refuge Headquarters Office, San Pablo Bay National 
Wildlife Refuge, 2100 Highway 37, Petaluma, CA 94954; (707) 769-4200.
     San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 9500 
Thornton Avenue, Newark, CA 94560; (510) 792-0222.
     John F. Kennedy Public Library, 505 Santa Clara, Vallejo, 
CA 94590.
    Written comments and requests for information may be mailed to:
    Christy Smith, Refuge Manager, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife 
Refuge, 7715 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma, California 94954. Written 
comments may also be sent by facsimile to (707) 769-8106.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christy Smith, Refuge Manager, San 
Pablo Bay NWR, (707) 769-4200 (phone); christy_smith@fws.gov (e-mail), 
OR Louis Terrazas, Wildlife Refuge Specialist, San Pablo Bay NWR, (707) 
769-4200 (phone); louis_terrazas@fws.gov (e-mail).



    Located within the existing Refuge boundary, the Cullinan Ranch 
Unit is bordered by the South Slough and Dutchman Slough to the north 
and State Route 37 to the south. California Department of Fish and Game 
Pond 1 borders Cullinan Ranch to the west. Guadalcanal Village Wetlands 
(Guadalcanal), which is owned by the State of California and is 
currently being restored to tidal marsh, borders Cullinan Ranch to the 


    The Cullinan Ranch restoration project would restore approximately 
1,500 acres of diked baylands to historic tidal conditions by 
reintroducing tidal flow into the project area. This area, Cullinan 
Ranch, is located in an area of the Napa River Delta that was 
historically defined by a network of meandering sloughs and extensive 
estuarine tidal marshes. Reintroduction of tidal flow will restore 
vital salt marsh habitat for endangered species, including the salt 
marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris), and the California 
clapper rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus), as well as provide 
foraging and roosting habitat for fish, migratory waterfowl and 
    The proposed restoration is based on the concept that 
reintroduction of tidal waters will naturally develop salt-water marsh 
habitat conditions. The existing perimeter levee currently prevents 
tidal flows into the area and, as a result, the land has subsided 
several feet in elevation and becomes inundated with fresh water during 
the rainy season. Once restored, twice-daily tidal flows would carry 
and deposit sediment, eventually establishing marsh plain elevations 
sufficient to support tidal marsh vegetation. As tidal waters enter and 
exit the site, tidal channels would develop or re-establish from 
previous channels. Continued tidal action would maintain an active 
exchange of water, sediment and nutrients between the marsh habitat and 
the Bay, further enhancing the value of the habitat for plants and 
    In keeping with one of the purposes of the Refuge ``to conserve 
fish, wildlife, or plants which are listed as endangered species or 
threatened species,'' the Cullinan Ranch restoration project would 
restore historic salt marsh habitat for the benefit of threatened and 
endangered species as well as many other estuarine-dependent species.
    We announced a notice of intent to prepare an Environmental 
Assessment on July 15, 2002, and sent notices to

[[Page 24303]]

various newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area. We conducted a public 
scoping meeting on August 7, 2002 (67 FR 135). We held a second public 
scoping meeting on March 9, 2007 (72 FR 46). During preparation of the 
Environmental Assessment, we determined that the scope of the 
restoration would require an environmental impact statement. On 
September 6, 2007, we announced a notice of intent to prepare an 
environmental impact statement and sent notices to various newspapers 
and interested parties and agencies in the San Francisco Bay area.
    Because some of the proposed project area includes State lands, we 
have prepared the DEIS/EIR to satisfy the requirements of both NEPA and 
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The California 
Department of Fish and Game is the CEQA lead agency for this project. 
The potential impacts of a ``no-action'' alternative and two ``action'' 
alternatives are assessed and, where appropriate, mitigation measures 
are applied to reduce the intensity of the potential effect or to avoid 
the potential effect.


    We identified and analyzed a total of eight alternatives. The 
alternatives were analyzed based on a set of criteria, including 
effects to adjacent habitats; effects to the existing levees; effects 
on the hydrology of the existing slough channels and adjacent water 
bodies; costs of implementing restoration activities and long-term 
maintenance; and effects of project construction on existing uses on 
and adjacent to the Cullinan Ranch Site (Site). We removed five of 
these alternatives from further consideration because they did not meet 
the cost and engineering feasibility criteria as set forth by the lead 
agencies. Many of the alternatives considered were formulated with 
optional implementation features in order to minimize effects on 
adjacent habitats (such as the fringe marshes along Dutchman Slough and 
Pritchett Marsh), such as staging the Proposed Action and/or limiting 
the amount of tidal exchange. We analyzed these features but removed 
them from further consideration because hydrologic modeling revealed 
that they would not significantly reduce adverse effects to adjacent 
habitats. Based on additional hydrologic modeling and information 
obtained from the Napa Sonoma Restoration Project (NSRP), the lead 
agencies carried forward three possible alternatives to environmental 
analysis: The No-Action Alternative, the Preferred Restoration 
Alternative, and the Partial Restoration Alternative.

No-Action Alternative

    Under the No-Action Alternative, the lead agencies would take no 
action to restore tidal influence to the Site; however, continued 
maintenance of the Dutchman and South Slough levees would occur. Under 
this alternative, because the lead agencies would be required to 
maintain the northern levee along Dutchman Slough in perpetuity, 
maintenance activities would likely increase as the levees age and 
scour increases in response to activities undertaken by the NSRP. Under 
the No-Action Alternative, the components of the Proposed Action would 
not be implemented.

Preferred Restoration Alternative

    The Preferred Restoration Alternative would restore the entire 
1,500-ac Cullinan Ranch Site with implementation of the following 
project components:
     Component 1: Construct boardwalk to provide access to 
existing electrical towers.
     Component 2: Block drainage ditches to promote 
redevelopment of natural sloughs.
     Component 3: Improve the DFG Pond 1 levee and install 
water control structures.
     Component 4: Protect Highway 37 from project-induced 
flooding and erosion, through levee construction.
     Component 5: Construct public access areas.
     Component 6: Breach the levees along Dutchman and South 
Sloughs and Guadalcanal Village.
     Component 7: Implement long-term monitoring.

Partial Restoration Alternative

    The Partial Restoration Alternative would restore 300 ac of the 
Cullinan Ranch Site. The Partial Restoration Alternative was developed 
in order to limit potential impacts to the hydrology of Dutchman 
Slough. While it would meet the purpose and need of the project, a 
smaller overall area within Cullinan Ranch would be restored, and 
connectivity with other adjacent restoration projects would be limited.
    The Partial Restoration Alternative would include implementation of 
the following project components:
     Component 1: Block drainage ditches to promote 
redevelopment of natural Sloughs.
     Component 2: Construct internal levee.
     Component 3: Protect Highway 37 from project-induced 
flooding and erosion, through levee construction.
     Component 4: Breach the levee along Dutchman Slough.
     Component 5: Long-term monitoring.

Public Meeting

    We will hold one public meeting in to solicit comments on the DEIS/
EIR on May 30, 2008, at the Mare Island Conference Center, 375 G 
Street, Mare Island, Vallejo, CA 94954, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Public Comments

    We invite the public to comment on the DEIS/EIR during the comment 
period. 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. We will use the comments to prepare a final 
environmental impact statement/environmental impact report. A decision 
will be made no sooner than 30 days after the publication of the final 
environmental impact statement. We anticipate that a Record of Decision 
will be issued by the Service in the summer of 2008.
    We provide this notice under regulations implementing NEPA (40 CFR 

    Dated: April 23, 2008.
Ken McDermond,
Acting Regional Director, Region 8.
 [FR Doc. E8-9675 Filed 5-1-08; 8:45 am]