[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 5 (Tuesday, January 8, 2013)]
[Pages 1246-1247]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-00134]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-R-2012-N270; FXRS12610800000-134-FF08RSDC00]

Otay River Estuary Restoration Project; South San Diego Bay Unit 
and Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife 
Refuge, California; Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; reinitiation of scoping and request for 
public comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are 
reinitiating scoping with regard to the environmental impact statement 
(EIS) for the proposed Otay River Estuary Restoration Project. As 
originally proposed, the project involved the restoration of estuarine 
and salt marsh (subtidal and intertidal wetlands) habitats within the 
western terminus of the Otay River and a portion of the salt ponds in 
the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge-South San Diego Bay Unit. 
Based on information developed since the original scoping period, the 
proposed project may now also include the restoration of a portion of 
the D Street Fill, located within the San Diego Bay National Wildlife 
Refuge-Sweetwater Marsh Unit. We originally published a notice of 
intent on November 14, 2011 (76 FR 70480), and scoping comments were 
accepted through January 12, 2012. Since then, we have expanded the 
Area of Potential Effect of the restoration project to include the salt 
ponds and D Street Fill within the San Diego Bay National Wildlife 
Refuge. This second notice advises the public that we intend to gather 
additional information through scoping regarding an EIS for the 
expanded project. 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. Comments submitted during the earlier scoping 
period do not need to be resubmitted.

DATES: To ensure that we have adequate time to evaluate and incorporate 
suggestions and other input, we must receive your comments on or before 
February 8, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by 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 Andrew 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 and the salt ponds. The wildlife and habitat 
management goal of the selected alternative for the Sweetwater Marsh 
Unit is to ``Protect, manage, enhance, and restore coastal wetland and 
upland habitats to benefit native fish, wildlife, and plant species 
within the Sweetwater Marsh Unit.'' The proposed restoration project 
represents step-down restoration planning for the western portion of 
the Otay River floodplain, salt ponds, and D Street Fill. The site-
specific EIS for this project will tier from the programmatic EIS and 
ROD prepared for the CCP. Funding for the proposed restoration is being 
provided by the Poseidon Resources Carlsbad Desalination Project to 
fulfill part of their mitigation requirement for the desalination 
project. On November 15, 2007, the California Coastal Commission 
(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 (MLMP).
    In early 2010, Poseidon submitted an initial proposal to the 
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. Commission staff and members of the Commission's 
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 Commission and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control 
Board (SDRWQCB). On February 9, 2011, the Commission unanimously 
approved the Otay River floodplain site, and the site was approved by 
the SDRWQCB on March 9, 2011. On October 15, 2012, the Commission's 
Executive Director approved an 18-month extension to Poseidon Resources 
to submit a Coastal Development Permit application based on the 
potential additional benefits of restoration or partial restoration of 
salt ponds as part of the Otay River Estuary Restoration Project. The 
MLMP requirements and objectives are consistent with the goals and 
objectives set forth in our CCP for the Otay River floodplain, salt 
ponds, and D Street Fill.
    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 disturbed uplands within the western portion 
of the Otay River floodplain and salt ponds

[[Page 1247]]

to functional estuarine and salt marsh habitats. We may also restore a 
portion of the D Street Fill to salt marsh 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 and Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego Bay NWR and to provide 
habitat for migratory shorebirds and other salt-marsh-dependent 
    The uplands portion of 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 uplands site is owned by the Service in fee 
title, while the western portion is leased to the Service by the State 
Lands Commission. D Street Fill is located west of Interstate 5 and 
south of the Sweetwater River. The Salt Ponds are located west of 
Interstate 5 and south of the Chula Vista Marina.
    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. The excavated 
soil may be used to create estuarine and salt marsh habitats in the 
salt ponds, with the remainder being transported off site to an 
approved disposal site. The proposed wetlands would be tidally 
connected to San Diego Bay, directly and through the existing Otay 
River channel. Additional grading to potentially deepen and widen the 
Otay River channel from the western edge of the project site out to the 
mouth of the river, and potentially dredging channels in the mudflats 
to increase tidal circulation to the adjacent restored salt ponds, may 
be needed pending hydraulic modeling. At the D Street Fill, material 
would be excavated and removed to restore historic salt marsh.

Public Comment

    We are furnishing this second 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 early 2013. 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 the contact provided under ADDRESSES above. We 
will accept both oral and written comments at the scoping meeting. 
Written comments previously provided in response to the November 2011 
notice of intent and during the December 2011 scoping meeting are part 
of the public record and will be considered during our NEPA review. 
Comments submitted previously do not need to be resubmitted.

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 winter of 2014.

Alexandra Pitts,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-00134 Filed 1-7-13; 8:45 am]