[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 24 (Friday, February 4, 2011)]
[Pages 6491-6493]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-2264]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2010-N261; 80221-1112-80221-F2]

San Diego County Water Authority Subregional Natural Community 
Conservation Program/Habitat Conservation Plan, San Diego and Riverside 
Counties, CA; Final Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat 
Conservation Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we, the 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of the 
final Environmental Impact Report (EIR)/Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) on the application from the San Diego County Water Authority 
(Water Authority; Applicant) for an incidental take permit under 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). We also announce the availability of the Water Authority's 
Subregional Natural Community Conservation Program/Habitat Conservation 
Plan (NCCP/HCP), which the applicant has submitted with their 
incidental take permit application and Implementing Agreement (IA). If 
issued, the permit would authorize incidental take of species for a 55-
year term during construction, operations, and maintenance activities 
by the Applicant in San Diego and Riverside Counties, California.

DATES: A record of decision will be signed no sooner than 30 days after 
the publication of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notice of 
the Final EIS in the Federal Register. We must receive any comments by 
5 p.m. on March 7, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Send comments by U.S. mail to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field 
Supervisor, at Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley 
Road, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92011; or by facsimile to (760) 431-5902.

    Ms. Karen A. Goebel, Assistant Field Supervisor, at the Carlsbad 
Fish and Wildlife Office address above; or telephone (760) 431-9440.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We advise the public of the availability of 
the final EIR/EIS on the application from Water Authority for an 
incidental take permit. The EIR portion of the joint document was 
prepared by the Water Authority in compliance with the California 
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
    We also announce the availability of the Water Authority 
Subregional Natural Community Conservation Program/Habitat Conservation 
Plan (NCCP/HCP), which the applicant has submitted with their 
incidental take permit application and Implementing Agreement (IA). If 
issued, the permit would authorize incidental take of 37 animal species 
and provide assurances for 26 plant species (including 18 federally 
listed species) during the proposed 55-year term of the permit. The 
permit is needed because incidental take of federally listed animal 
species could occur during construction, operations, and maintenance 
activities by the Applicant within the approximately 992,000-acre 
(401,450-hectare) Plan Area in western San Diego County and south-
central Riverside County, California.

Availability of Documents

    Documents available for public review include the final EIR/EIS 
which includes response to public comments received on the draft EIR/
EIS, the Water Authority NCCP/HCP, and the IA. For copies of the 
documents, please contact the Service by telephone at (760) 431-9440, 
or by letter to the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT). Copies of the documents also are available for 
public review, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office or at the San Diego County Water 
Authority Office (4677 Overland Avenue, San Diego, CA 92123). Copies 
are also available for viewing in select San Diego County and Riverside 
County public libraries (listed below) and at the Water Authority's Web 
site: http://www.sdcwa.org/.
    1. Carlsbad Public Library--Reference Desk. 1775 Dove Lane, 
Carlsbad, CA 92009.
    2. Chula Vista Public Library--Reference Desk. 365 F Street, Chula 
Vista, CA 91910.
    3. Escondido Public Library--Reference Desk. 239 S. Kalmia Street, 
Escondido, CA 92025.
    4. Lakeside Public Library--Reference Desk. 9839 Vine Street, 
Lakeside, CA 92040.
    5. Mission Valley Branch Library--Reference Desk. 2123 Fento 
Parkway, San Diego, CA 92108.
    6. San Diego Public Library--Reference Desk. 820 E Street, San 
Diego, CA 92101.
    7. Temecula Public Library--Reference Desk. 30600 Pauba Road, 
Temecula, CA 92592.


    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 
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

[[Page 6492]]

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 permit in 
recognition of the conservation benefits provided to them under the 
NCCP/HCP. 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 permit, if 
issued, would receive assurances under the Service's ``No Surprises'' 
regulation (50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)).
    The Applicant seeks incidental take authorization for 37 animal 
species and assurances for 26 plant species. Collectively the 63 listed 
and unlisted species are referred to as ``Covered Species'' by the 
NCCP/HCP and include 26 plant species (5 endangered, 5 threatened, and 
16 unlisted); 5 invertebrate species (3 endangered and 2 unlisted); 2 
amphibian species (1 endangered and 1 unlisted); 9 reptile species (all 
unlisted); 13 bird species (2 endangered, 1 threatened, and 10 
unlisted); and 8 mammal species (1 endangered and 7 unlisted). Take 
authorized for listed covered animal species would be effective upon 
permit issuance. For currently unlisted covered animal species, take 
authorization 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 eight federally 
listed animal species: Stephens' kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi; 
endangered), least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus; endangered), 
coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica; 
threatented), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii 
extimus; endangered), arroyo toad (Anaxyrus (=Bufo) californicus; 
endangered), Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino; 
endangered), Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus woottoni; 
endangered), and San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegoensis; 
endangered). The proposed permit would include assurances for the 
following 10 federally listed plant species: Encinitas baccharis 
(Baccharis vanessae; threatened), Otay mesa mint (Pogogyne nudiuscula; 
endangered), Otay tarplant (Deinandra conjugens; threatened), San Diego 
ambrosia (Ambrosia pumila; endangered), San Diego button-celery 
(Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii; endangered), San Diego mesa mint 
(Pogogyne abramsii; endangered), San Diego thorn-mint (Acanthomintha 
ilicifolia; threatened), spreading navarretia (Navarretia fossalis; 
threatened), thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia; threatened), 
and willowy monardella (Monardella viminea; endangered). See the final 
EIR/EIS and NCCP/HCP for information on unlisted species proposed for 
coverage under the permit.
    The Water Authority NCCP/HCP is intended to protect and sustain 
viable populations of native plant and animal species and their 
habitats in perpetuity through avoidance, minimization, and mitigation 
measures, including purchase of lands for permanent conservation and 
use of mitigation credits in mitigation banks previously established to 
address mitigation requirements associated with the proposed NCCP/HCP. 
The proposed NCCP/HCP and permit would accommodate the Water 
Authority's ongoing operations and maintenance requirements, future 
facility upgrades, and construction of new facilities that are needed 
to maintain a safe, reliable water source to its member agencies and 
the San Diego region.
    The Water Authority's NCCP/HCP Plan Area encompasses approximately 
992,000 acres (401,450 hectares) in western San Diego County and the 
vicinity of Lake Skinner in south-central Riverside County. The NCCP/
HCP is intended to function independently of other HCPs within the San 
Diego region [e.g., San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) 
and its associated subarea plans, and Western Riverside County's 
Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP)].
    As described in the NCCP/HCP and the final EIR/EIS, the proposed 
NCCP/HCP would provide protection measures for species on Water 
Authority property and easements, in part by using available mitigation 
credits from mitigation banks previously established or in planning by 
the Water Authority as habitat management areas (HMAs). Covered 
activities, including planned and future projects, are estimated to 
impact up to 373 acres (151 hectares) of habitat for Covered Species 
that will require mitigation over the 55-year term of the permit. When 
on-site mitigation for permanent impacts is not feasible, available 
mitigation credits would be debited from HMAs in accordance with in-
kind mitigation ratios identified in the NCCP/HCP. The Water Authority 
has established four HMAs (including three upland properties and one 
wetland creation property) and will establish two addition wetland HMAs 
totaling 1,920 acres (775 hectares), for which the Water Authority has 
or will provide endowments for permanent management. Of these acres, 
approximately 700 acres (283 hectares) would be available as credits to 
mitigate for project impacts to Covered Species. Costs associated with 
the NCCP/HCP would be funded as a capital cost under the Water 
Authority Capital Improvement Program's (CIP) Mitigation Program or 
within individually approved CIP project budgets, and/or the annual 
operating budget of the Water Authority's Water Resources Department. 
The Water Authority estimates its long-term financial needs based on 
the CIP and has adopted a 2-year budget cycle to address short-term 
funding and expenditures. Also, contingency measures have been included 
in the plan should the Water Authority's costs to implement, monitor, 
and report on the NCCP/HCP's measures exceed the budgeted amount. The 
Water Authority maintains a diverse revenue base and consistently 
evaluates existing and potential revenue sources to ensure that funding 
of all Water Authority projects is adequate.
    The NCCP/HCP includes measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate 
incidental take of the Covered Species, emphasizing project design 
modifications to protect Covered Species and their habitats. A 
monitoring and reporting plan would gauge the Plan's success based on 
achievement of biological goals and objectives and would ensure that 
conservation keeps pace with development. The NCCP/HCP also includes a 
management program, including adaptive management, which allows for 
changes in the conservation program if the biological species 
objectives are not met or if new information becomes available to 
improve the efficacy of the NCCP/HCP's conservation strategy.
    Covered Activities would include developing new water transmission, 
storage, and flow management facilities, in addition to conducting 
operation and maintenance activities. These Covered Activities fall 
under three primary categories, including:
    (1) Construction of Capital Improvement Program Facilities;
    (2) Operation and Maintenance Activities; and
    (3) Preserve Area Management, Monitoring, and Adaptive Management

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    Our proposal to issue an incidental take permit is a Federal Action 
that triggers the need for compliance with NEPA. Accordingly, as the 

[[Page 6493]]

agency responsible for compliance under NEPA, we have prepared jointly 
with the Water Authority an EIR/EIS that analyzes three alternatives in 
addition to the proposed action (i.e., permit issuance based on the 
Water Authority NCCP/HCP) described above. The other alternatives 
include a no-action (i.e., no permit) alternative, a larger species 
list alternative, and a reduced plan area alternative. Two other 
alternatives were considered during the planning process but were not 
evaluated because neither met the purpose and need of both the Water 
Authority and the Service; these alternatives involved a no-take 
alternative and an alternative requiring the Water Authority to 
participate in other existing regional HCPs.
    The final EIR/EIS includes all comments we received on the draft 
EIR/EIS and our responses to those comments. After the 30-day waiting 
period, we will complete a Record of Decision that announces our 
decision on what action will be implemented and discusses all factors 
leading to the decision.

Public Involvement

    We published a notice of intent to prepare an EIS for this project 
in the Federal Register on November 26, 2003 (68 FR 66478). The Service 
and Water Authority held a public scoping meeting on December 11, 2003. 
On March 4, 2010, we published a notice of availability of the draft 
EIR/EIS, draft Water Authority NCCP/HCP, and draft IA in the Federal 
Register (75 FR 9921). Public meetings were held on March 17 and March 
18, 2010. The draft documents were available for a 90-day public 
comment period ending on June 2, 2010.

Public Review

    Copies of the final EIR/EIS, Water Authority NCCP/HCP, and IA are 
available for review (see Availability of Documents). Any comments we 
receive will become part of the administrative record and may be 
available 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.

    Dated: January 20, 2011.
Alexandra Pitts,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2011-2264 Filed 2-3-11; 8:45 am]