[Federal Register: December 17, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 242)]
[Page 79013-79015]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2010-N225; 1112-0000-81420-F2]

Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural 
Community Conservation Plan, CA; Availability of Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement, Public Meeting, and Receipt of Applications

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of Draft Environmental Impact Statement, 
notice of public meeting, and receipt of applications.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that we, the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service), have received applications for incidental 
take permits pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act) from the County of Santa Clara; Cities of 
San Jose, Gilroy, and Morgan Hill; Santa Clara Valley Transportation 
Authority, and Santa Clara Valley Water District (Applicants). The 
Applicants prepared the Draft Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation 
Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act and the California Natural Community 
Conservation Planning Act of 2002 (NCCPA).
    This notice announces the availability of the permit applications, 
Draft HCP/NCCP, Draft Implementing Agreement (IA), and Draft 
Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) 
for public review and comment. The Service is considering the issuance 
of a 50-year incidental take permit for 21 Covered Species in a 
509,883-acre Permit Area. A seventh applicant will also be considered 
for permit coverage; the Implementing Entity (likely a joint powers 
agency) that will form prior to permit issuance. The Implementing 
Entity is described in the Draft HCP/NCCP and Draft IA and would be 
composed of representatives from each of the Applicants. The Applicants 
are requesting a permit to incidentally take 11 animal species and

[[Page 79014]]

are seeking assurances for 10 plant species. The permit is needed 
because take of species could occur as a result of proposed Covered 

DATES: Written comments must be received by 5 p.m. on April 18, 2011. 
We will accept comments at two public meetings:
    1. Wednesday, February 9, 2011, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Morgan 
Hill, CA.
    2. Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Palo Alto, 

ADDRESSES: Please send written comments to Cori Mustin, Senior Fish and 
Wildlife Biologist, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage 
Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. You may also submit comments by e-
mail to R8SCVHPcomments@fws.gov or by facsimile to (916) 414-6713. If 
you choose to submit comments via e-mail, please ensure that the file 
size does not exceed 10 megabytes. E-mails that exceed the maximum file 
size may not be properly transmitted to the Service.
    Please send comments related specifically to the Draft EIR and 
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process to the County of 
Santa Clara Executive's Office, Kenneth Schreiber, HCP/NCCP Program 
Manager, County Government Center, East Wing, 11th Floor, 70 West 
Hedding Street, San Jose, CA 95110. You may also submit comments by 
facsimile to (408) 295-1613.
    The public meeting locations follow:
    1. Wednesday, February 9, 2011, at the Morgan Hill Community and 
Cultural Center, El Toro Room, 17000 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill, CA 
    2. Tuesday, February 15, 2011, at the Peninsula Conservation 
Center, Raptor Room, 3921 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

Conservation Planning; or Eric Tattersall, Deputy Assistant Field 
Supervisor/Division Chief, Conservation Planning and Recovery; 2800 
Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825, or telephone (916) 414-6600.


Availability of Documents

    All documents are available for viewing at the HCP/NCCP's Web site: 
http://www.scv-habitatplan.org/www/default.aspx. Individuals wishing 
copies of the applications, Draft HCP/NCCP, Draft EIR/EIS, and/or Draft 
IA, should contact the Service by telephone (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT). Copies of the subject documents are also 
available for public inspection during regular business hours at the 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT). In addition, copies of all documents are available at the 
following library locations:
    1. Almaden Branch Library. 6445 Camden Avenue, San Jose, CA 95120.
    2. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. 150 E San Fernando Street, 
San Jose, CA 95112.
    3. Gilroy Library. 7387 Rosanna Street, Gilroy, CA 95020.
    4. Morgan Hill Library. 660 West Main Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA 
    5. Central Park Library. 2635 Homestead Road, Santa Clara, CA 
    6. City of Palo Alto Main Library. 1233 Newell Road, Palo Alto, CA 
    7. Fremont Main Library. 2400 Stevenson Boulevard, Fremont, CA 

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' of 
fish and wildlife species federally listed as endangered or threatened. 
Take of federally listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act as 
to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect listed species, or attempt to engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 
1538). ``Harm'' includes significant habitat modification or 
degradation that actually kills or injures listed wildlife by 
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including 
breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3(c)). Under limited 
circumstances, we may issue permits to authorize incidental take, which 
is defined under the Act as take that is incidental to, and not the 
purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. Although take of plant species 
is not prohibited under the Act, and therefore cannot be authorized 
under an incidental take permit, plant species are proposed to be 
included on the permits in recognition of the conservation benefits 
provided to them under the HCP/NCCP. Regulations governing incidental 
take permits for threatened and endangered species are found in 50 CFR 
17.32 and 17.22, respectively. All species included on the incidental 
take permits, if issued, would receive assurances under the Service's 
``No Surprises'' regulation (50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)).
    In order to comply with the requirements of the Act, California 
Endangered Species Act, and the NCCPA, the Draft HCP/NCCP defines 
biological goals and objectives; evaluates the effects of Covered 
Activities on Covered Species, including indirect and cumulative 
effects; describes a conservation strategy; describes a monitoring and 
adaptive management program; identifies changed circumstances and 
responsive actions; identifies funding sources; and identifies 
alternative actions to the proposed impacts. The Draft HCP/NCCP is 
intended to be a comprehensive and multijurisdictional document that 
will facilitate regional species conservation and assist the Applicants 
to better manage anticipated growth and development. The Draft HCP/NCCP 
will also provide a coordinated process for permitting and mitigating 
the incidental take of Covered Species as an alternative to the current 
project-by-project review process.
    The Draft HCP/NCCP addresses 21 Covered Species, including 11 
animal species (2 federally endangered, 3 federally threatened, and 6 
unlisted) and 10 plant species (4 federally endangered and 6 unlisted). 
The permit would provide take authorization for all animal species and 
assurances for all plant species identified by the Draft HCP/NCCP as 
Covered Species. Take authorized for listed covered animal species 
would be effective upon permit issuance and adoption of all applicable 
local ordinances. Take authorization for currently unlisted covered 
animal species would become effective concurrent with listing, should 
the species be listed under the Act during the Permit Term.
    The proposed permit would include the following five federally 
listed animal species: The threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly 
(Euphydryas editha bayensis), threatened California tiger salamander 
(Central California Distinct Population Segment) (Ambystoma 
californiense), threatened California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), 
endangered least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), and endangered 
San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica). The proposed permit would 
include assurances for the following four federally listed plant 
species: The endangered Tiburon Indian paintbrush (Castilleja affinis 
ssp. neglecta), endangered coyote ceanothus (Ceanothus ferrisae), 
endangered Santa Clara Valley dudleya (Dudleya setchellii), and 
endangered Metcalf Canyon jewelflower (Streptanthus albidus ssp. 
    The unlisted species proposed for coverage under the Draft HCP/NCCP 
are the foothill yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii), western pond turtle 
(Clemmys marmorata), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), western 
burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea), tricolored blackbird 
(Agelaius tricolor),

[[Page 79015]]

Townsend's western big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii townsendii), 
Mount Hamilton thistle (Cirsium fontinale var. campylon), San Francisco 
collinsia (Collinsia multicolor), fragrant fritillary (Fritillaria 
liliacea), Loma Prieta hoita (Hoita strobilina), smooth lessingia 
(Lessingia micradenia var. glabrata), and most beautiful jewelflower 
(Streptanthus albidus ssp. peramoenus).
    The Applicants are requesting coverage for incidental take 
resulting from the following seven categories of Covered Activities:
    1. Urban Development,
    2. Instream Capital Projects,
    3. Instream Operation and Maintenance Activities,
    4. Rural Capital Projects,
    5. Rural Operation and Maintenance Activities,
    6. Rural Development, and
    7. Conservation Strategy Implementation.
    The proposed 509,883-acre Permit Area is the area where incidental 
take of Covered Species resulting from Covered Activities could occur 
and includes the Pajaro River and all or a portion of the Llagas, Uvas, 
Pescadero, and Pacheco subwatersheds and the Coyote Creek watershed 
within Santa Clara County. A large portion of the Guadalupe watershed 
is also contained within the Permit Area, as well as small areas 
outside of each of these watersheds. The Permit Area excludes existing 
State Park lands.
    Contained within the 509,883-acre Permit Area is the 48,464-acre 
Expanded Permit Area for Burrowing Owl Conservation, which includes the 
northern portion of Santa Clara County and a small portion of both San 
Mateo and Alameda Counties (see Figure 1-2 of the HCP/NCCP). Incidental 
take in the Expanded Permit Area for Burrowing Owl Conservation will be 
limited to capture, harm, and harassment of burrowing owls as a result 
of implementing the conservation strategy.
    Covered Activities would result in the permanent loss of up to 
25,864 acres in the Permit Area. Habitat models were developed for most 
Covered Species and used in the impacts analysis. Land cover surrogates 
were used to identify maximum impacts to species for which habitat 
models could not be developed. The Draft HCP/NCCP also describes 
conditions on Covered Activities to avoid or minimize take of Covered 
    The proposed conservation strategy includes establishing a reserve 
system that would be composed of an estimated 58,000 acres of large 
contiguous blocks of land that would be permanently preserved, 
monitored, and managed. The conservation strategy would remain in rough 
step with impacts, and the Reserve System would be assembled according 
to predefined milestones throughout the Permit Term.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The Service prepared the EIS, which is the Federal portion of the 
Draft EIR/EIS, to analyze the impacts of issuing incidental take 
permits based on the Draft HCP/NCCP. Santa Clara County facilitated the 
preparation of the EIR portion of the Draft EIR/EIS, in compliance with 
the CEQA, but all Applicants share the CEQA Lead Agency role. The 
California Department of Fish and Game is a CEQA Trustee and 
Responsible Agency. The Draft EIR/EIS was developed to inform the 
public of the Proposed Action, alternatives, and associated impacts; 
address public comments received during the scoping period for the 
Draft EIR/EIS; and disclose irreversible commitments of resources.
    The proposed permit issuance triggers the need for compliance with 
NEPA. The Service published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIR/
EIS in the Federal Register on September 6, 2007 (72 FR 51247). The NOI 
announced a public scoping period during which time the public was 
invited to provide written comments and attend a public scoping 
meeting, which was held on September 26, 2007, in Morgan Hill, 
    The Service is now providing notice of the availability of the 
Draft EIS, which evaluates the impacts of the Proposed Action described 
above (i.e., issuance of the permits and implementation of the Draft 
HCP/NCCP), as well as the No Action Alternative and Alternative A, 
which are described below.
    No Action Alternative: Under the No Action Alternative, the Service 
would not issue incidental take permits to the Applicants, and the 
Draft HCP/NCCP would not be implemented. Under this alternative, 
projects that may adversely affect federally listed species would 
require project-level consultation with the Service pursuant to section 
7 or section 10 of the Act. This project-level approach would preclude 
landscape-level conservation planning and would not streamline the 
current permitting process.
    Alternative A (Reduced Permit Term): Under Alternative A, the 
Service would issue incidental take permits, and the Applicants would 
implement a habitat conservation plan and natural communities 
conservation plan that is similar to the Draft HCP/NCCP described in 
the Proposed Action; however, the proposed Permit Term would be reduced 
to 30 years. The extent of Covered Activities and the conservation 
strategy would be subsequently reduced relative to the Proposed Action.


    The Service invites the public to comment on the permit 
applications, Draft HCP/NCCP, Draft IA, and Draft EIR/EIS during the 
public comment period (see DATES). Please direct written comments to 
contacts listed in the ADDRESSES section and questions to the Service 
contacts listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. All 
comments and materials we receive, including names and addresses, will 
become part of the administrative record and may be released to the 
public. 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.

Reasonable Accommodation

    The public meetings are physically accessible to people with 
disabilities. Please make requests for specific accommodations to Karen 
Molinari, ICF International, at (408) 375-9979 or kmolinari@icfi.com, 
at least 5 working days prior to the meeting date.

Next Steps

    This notice is provided under section 10(a) of the Act and Service 
regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the applications, associated 
documents, and comments submitted thereon to prepare a Final EIR/EIS. A 
permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after the 
publication of the NOA of for the Final EIR/EIS and completion of the 
Record of Decision.

    Dated: December 6, 2010.
Robert Clarke,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2010-31425 Filed 12-16-10; 8:45 am]