[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 51 (Monday, March 17, 2014)]
[Pages 14732-14733]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-05763]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2014-N027; FXES11120000-134-FF08ECAR00]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Incidental Take 
Permit Application; Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for 
the Sweetwater Riding and Hiking Trail, County of San Diego, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application from Sweetwater Authority (applicant) for a 5-
year incidental take permit for one covered species pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
The application addresses the potential for ``take'' of the endangered 
San Diego fairy shrimp associated with the proposed use of an 
established hiking, biking, and equestrian trail near the Sweetwater 
Reservoir in unincorporated San Diego County, California. A 
conservation program to avoid, minimize, and mitigate for the project 
activities would be implemented as described in the proposed Sweetwater 
Riding and Hiking Trail Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan (proposed 
HCP), which would be implemented by the applicant.
    We are requesting comments on the permit application and on the 
preliminary determination that the proposed HCP qualifies as a ``low-
effect'' Habitat Conservation Plan, eligible for a categorical 
exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, 
as amended. The basis for this determination is discussed in the 
Environmental Action Statement (EAS) and the associated Low Effect 
Screening Form, which are also available for public review.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before April 16, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to the Field Supervisor, Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 2177 Salk 
Avenue, Suite 250, Carlsbad, CA 92008. Written comments may also be 
sent by facsimile to 760-431-9624.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen Goebel, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); 
telephone: 760-431-9440. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 


Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing for copies of the application, proposed HCP, 
and EAS should contact the Service immediately, by telephone at 760-
431-9440 or by letter to the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office. Copies 
of the proposed HCP and EAS also are available for public inspection 
during regular business hours at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office 


    Section 9 of the Act and its implementing Federal regulations 
prohibit the take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. 
Take is defined under the Act as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed animal species, or to 
attempt to engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1538). However, under 
section 10(a) of the Act, the Service may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take of listed species.

[[Page 14733]]

``Incidental take'' is defined by the Act as take that is incidental 
to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. 
Regulations governing incidental take permits for threatened and 
endangered species, respectively, are found in the Code of Federal 
Regulations at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.
    In December 2013, the applicant closed a segment of a San Diego 
County regional recreational trail system due to the discovery of the 
San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis) within ponded 
areas that had formed within the existing trail alignment. The 
applicant is seeking a 5-year permit for the take of San Diego fairy 
shrimp in the interim period of time while the applicant works to find 
a long-term solution to maintaining a trail connection. The applicant 
proposes to re-open the existing hiking, biking, and equestrian trail 
segment where there are currently four seasonally ponded pools covering 
a total of 291 square feet that are considered occupied by San Diego 
fairy shrimp. Re-opening the trail to recreational uses may impact San 
Diego fairy shrimp occurring in these pools. The applicant proposes to 
install temporary bridges and fencing to minimize impacts to the 
occupied pools and re-open the trail segment.
    The trail segment provides an important connection within a popular 
regional trail system, and continued closure of the trail will likely 
result in creation of unsanctioned alternate trails with unpredictable 
impacts to natural resources. We anticipate minor impacts to San Diego 
fairy shrimp within up to 145 square feet of the pools due to the 
effects of shading from the bridges and possible loss of individual San 
Diego fairy shrimp cysts due to trail maintenance. Although the project 
site is surrounded by occupied habitat for several federally threatened 
and endangered species, there are no other listed species specifically 
within the project alignment. Critical habitat for Otay tarplant 
(Deinandra conjugens) and spreading navarretia (Navarretia fossalis) 
occurs on the project site.

Proposed Action and Alternatives

    The Sweetwater Authority proposes to mitigate impacts to the San 
Diego fairy shrimp through efforts that have resulted in the 
restoration of 290 square feet of vernal pool habitat occupied by San 
Diego fairy shrimp and are permanently protected and managed.
    The Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take 
permit and implementation of the proposed HCP, which includes measures 
to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to the San Diego fairy shrimp. 
Four alternatives to the taking of the listed species under the 
Proposed Action are considered in the proposed HCP. Under the Permanent 
Trail Closure (No Action) Alternative, no authorized incidental take of 
San Diego fairy shrimp would occur; however, it is likely that 
unsanctioned alternate trail use would occur that would result in more 
impacts than under the Proposed Action, and recreational opportunities 
would be substantially reduced. Under the Minor Trail Deviation 
Alternative, immediate impacts to San Diego fairy shrimp would be 
avoided by moving the trail away from existing pools, but trail use 
would likely result in new depressions that could eventually be 
colonized by San Diego fairy shrimp and subsequently be impacted. Under 
the Different Location Alternative, the trail would be routed elsewhere 
to prevent additional impacts; however, planning and permitting this 
alternative will take up to 5 years, during which time recreational 
opportunities would be substantially reduced and alternative 
unsanctioned trail use would likely occur. Under the Reconstruction of 
the Existing Trail Segment Alternative, existing pools within the trail 
segment would be recontoured and/or filled to prevent San Diego fairy 
shrimp from developing within the pools, thereby reducing ongoing 
incidental take. However, this alternative would result in greater 
impacts to the species and require additional regulatory permitting.

Our Preliminary Determination

    The Service has made a preliminary determination that approval of 
the proposed HCP qualifies as a categorical exclusion under NEPA, as 
provided by the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2 Appendix 1 
and 516 DM 6 Appendix 1) and as a ``low-effect'' plan as defined by the 
Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996).
    We base our determination that a HCP qualifies as a low-effect plan 
on the following three criteria:
    (1) Implementation of the HCP would result in minor or negligible 
effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate species and their 
    (2) Implementation of the HCP would result in minor or negligible 
effects on other environmental values or resources; and
    (3) Impacts of the HCP, considered together with the impacts of 
other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable similarly situated 
projects, would not result, over time, in cumulative effects to 
environmental values or resources that would be considered significant.
    Based upon this preliminary determination, we do not intend to 
prepare further NEPA documentation. We will consider public comments in 
making the final determination on whether to prepare such additional 

Public Availability of Comments

    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.


    We provide this notice under section 10 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

Karen A. Goebel,
Acting Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, Carlsbad, 
[FR Doc. 2014-05763 Filed 3-14-14; 8:45 am]