[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 219 (Monday, November 14, 2011)]
[Pages 70480-70481]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-29265]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-R-2011-N199; 1261-0000-81680-W5]

Otay River Estuary Restoration Project, South San Diego Bay Unit 
of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California; 
Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for public comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Otay 
River Estuary Restoration Project. The proposed project involves the 
restoration of 66.4 acres of estuarine (subtidal and intertidal) 
wetland habitat within the western terminus of the Otay River, part of 
the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This notice advises the 
public that we intend to gather information necessary to prepare an 
EIS, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We 
encourage the public and other agencies to participate in the NEPA 
scoping process by sending written suggestions and information on the 
issues and concerns that should be addressed in the draft EIS, 
including the range of alternatives, appropriate mitigation measures, 
and the nature and extent of potential environmental impacts.

DATES: To ensure that we have adequate time to evaluate and incorporate 
suggestions and other input, we must receive your comments on or before 
January 6, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by any 
one of the following methods.
    Email: Otay_NOI@fws.gov. Please include ``Otay Estuary NOI'' in 
the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Brian Collins, (619) 476-9149.
    U.S. Mail: Brian Collins, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex, P.O. Box 2358, Chula Vista, CA 91912.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Collins, Refuge Manager (619) 
575-2704, extension 302), or Andy Yuen, Project Leader (619) 476-9150, 
extension 100).



    In 2006, we completed a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and 
EIS/Record of Decision (ROD) to guide the management of the San Diego 
Bay National Wildlife Refuge over a 15-year period (71 FR 64552, 
November 2, 2006). The wildlife and habitat management goal of the 
selected management alternative in the CCP for the South San Diego Bay 
Unit is to ``protect, manage, enhance, and restore * * * coastal 
wetlands * * * to benefit the native fish, wildlife, and plant species 
supported within the South San Diego Bay Unit.'' One of the strategies 
identified to meet this goal is to restore native habitats in the Otay 
River floodplain. The proposed restoration project represents step-down 
restoration planning for the western portion of the Otay River 
floodplain. The site-specific EIS for this project will tier from the 
programmatic EIS and ROD prepared for the CCP.

[[Page 70481]]

    Funding for the proposed restoration is being provided by the 
Poseidon Resources Carlsbad Desalination Project, in order to implement 
their Marine Life Mitigation Plan (MLMP), which is required to fulfill 
part of their mitigation requirement for the desalination project. On 
November 15, 2007, the California Coastal Commission approved a Coastal 
Development Permit (CDP No. E-06-013) for the Poseidon desalination 
facility in Carlsbad, San Diego County. As part of that approval, the 
Commission required Poseidon to implement a Marine Life Mitigation Plan 
    In early 2010, Poseidon submitted an initial proposal to the 
California Coastal Commission identifying possible mitigation sites. 
The submittal compared about a dozen potential sites in the Southern 
California Bight and concluded that the Otay River floodplain portion 
of the San Diego Bay NWR was most suited to provide the type and amount 
of mitigation the MLMP required. California Coastal Commission staff 
and members of its Scientific Advisory Panel reviewed Poseidon's 
analysis and concurred that the Otay River floodplain site was most 
likely to meet the MLMP requirements and objectives. Final site 
selection required approval by both the California Coastal Commission 
and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (Control Board).
    On February 9, 2011, the California Coastal Commission unanimously 
approved the Otay River floodplain site, and the site was approved by 
the Control Board on March 9, 2011. The MLMP requirements and 
objectives are consistent with the goals and objectives set forth in 
our CCP for the Otay River floodplain.
    Prior to implementation of the restoration project, the California 
Coastal Commission must approve a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for 
the proposed restoration. In accordance with the California 
Environmental Quality Act, the CDP process is exempt from the 
requirement of preparing an environmental impact report. The 
Commission's staff report and findings related to the CDP application 
for the project will be the environmental analysis document prepared 
under the Commission's certified regulatory program. The Commission 
will allow sufficient opportunity during the CDP process for public 
review and comment.

Proposed Project

    We propose to convert approximately 67 acres of disturbed uplands 
within the western portion of the Otay River floodplain to functional 
estuarine habitats, including subtidal wetlands and intertidal salt 
marsh and mudflat habitat. Upland buffers to be provided around 
portions of the restored wetlands would be planted with native upland 
and wetland/upland transitional vegetation. The major goals of the 
project are to protect, manage, enhance, and restore open water coastal 
wetlands and native upland to benefit native fish, wildlife, and plant 
species supported within the South San Diego Bay Unit of the San Diego 
Bay NWR and to provide habitat for migratory shorebirds and other salt 
marsh-dependent species.
    The project site, which is located within the City of San Diego to 
the west of Interstate 5 between Main Street to the north and Palm 
Avenue to the south, is included entirely within an area managed by the 
Service as a National Wildlife Refuge. The eastern portion of the site 
is owned by the Service in fee title, while the western portion is 
leased to the Service by the State Lands Commission.
    In order to restore estuarine habitat in the Otay River floodplain, 
we have initially estimated that approximately 75 acres would need to 
be graded to provide both the wetland and upland components of the 
proposed restoration. To achieve elevations appropriate for supporting 
the desired estuarine habitat types, excavation of 3 to 11 feet of soil 
over an area of approximately 65 acres would be required, generating an 
estimated 750,000 to 1 million cubic yards of material, some of which 
will be used on site, while the remainder will be transported off site 
to an approved disposal site. The proposed wetlands would be tidally 
connected to San Diego Bay via the existing Otay River channel. 
Additional grading to deepen and potentially widen the Otay River 
channel from the western edge of the project site out to the mouth of 
the river may also be needed, pending hydraulic modeling.

Public Comment

    We are furnishing this notice in accordance with section 1501.7 of 
the NEPA implementing regulations, to obtain suggestions and 
information from other agencies and the public on the scope of issues 
to be addressed in the EIS. The Service is currently developing a range 
of restoration alternatives to be analyzed in the draft EIS, and we 
invite written comments from interested parties to ensure 
identification of the full range of alternatives, issues, and concerns. 
Information gathered through this scoping process will assist us in 
developing a range of alternatives. A detailed description of the 
proposed action and alternatives will be included in the EIS. The EIS 
will also address the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the 
alternatives on environmental resources and identify appropriate 
mitigation measures for adverse environmental effects.
    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, email 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.
    In addition to providing written comments, the public is encouraged 
to attend a public scoping meeting to provide us with suggestions and 
information on the scope of issues and alternatives to consider when 
drafting the EIS. A public scoping meeting will be held in San Diego 
County, California, in the fall of 2011. We will mail a separate 
announcement to the public with the exact date, time, and location of 
the public scoping meeting. Requests to be contacted about the scoping 
meeting should be directed to Brian Collins (see ADDRESSES). We will 
accept both oral and written comments at the scoping meeting.

NEPA Compliance

    We will conduct environmental review in accordance with the 
requirements of NEPA, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), its 
implementing regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other applicable 
regulations, and our procedures for compliance with those regulations. 
We anticipate that a draft EIS will be available for public review in 
the spring of 2012.

Alexandra Pitts,
Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2011-29265 Filed 11-10-11; 8:45 am]