[Federal Register: May 20, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 96)]
[Page 23741-23742]
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; abbreviated final 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) announce that the 
abbreviated final environmental impact statement/environmental impact 
report (EIS/EIR) for the Cullinan Ranch Restoration Project is now 
available. The abbreviated final EIS/EIR, which we prepared and now 
announce in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA), describes the restoration plan for 1,500 acres (ac) of 
former hayfield farmland in the San Pablo Bay. The abbreviated final 
EIS/EIR responds to all comments we received on the draft document. 
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.

ADDRESSES: The abbreviated final EIS/EIR is available at the following 
     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 (telephone).
     John F. Kennedy Public Library, 505 Santa Clara, Vallejo, 
CA 94590.
     Internet: http://www.fws.gov/cno/refuges/cullinan/

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 saltwater 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.
    Because some of the proposed project area includes State lands, we 
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.

Public Review

    The formal public comment period for the draft EIS/EIR opened on 
May 2, 2008, and closed on June 17, 2008, although we received several 
comments during the 2 months following the comment period close. We 
announced the availability of the draft document by several methods, 
including press releases and public notice, including a notice in the 
Federal Register (73 FR 24302, May 2, 2008). The draft EIS/EIR 
identified and evaluated three alternatives for restoration. We 
received seven comment letters on the draft EIS/EIR. No comments 
received from interested individuals, groups, or agencies required us 
or CDFG to add new alternatives, significantly alter existing 
alternatives, or make changes to the impact analysis of the effect of 
any alternative. Thus, we were able to use an abbreviated format to 
fully document all our responses to comments in our final EIS/EIR, in 
compliance with the Council on Environmental Quality implementing 
regulations (40 CFR 1503.4 [c]) for NEPA.

Alternatives We Considered

No-Action Alternative

    Under the No-Action Alternative, the lead agencies would take no 
action to

[[Page 23742]]

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 as scour 
increases in response to activities undertaken by the Napa Sonoma 
Restoration Project. 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: If needed, drainage ditches would be blocked 
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: If needed, drainage ditches would be blocked 
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.
    The final EIS/EIR contains our responses to all comments received 
on the draft document. Following the release of the abbreviated final 
EIS/EIR, we will prepare a Record of Decision not sooner than 30 days 
after the Environmental Protection Agency has published its notice of 
filing of the document in the Federal Register. We anticipate that we 
will issue a Record of Decision in the summer of 2009.
    We provide this notice under regulations implementing NEPA (40 CFR 

    Dated: May 13, 2009.
Stephen M. Dyer,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. E9-11778 Filed 5-19-09; 8:45 am]