[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 240 (Monday, December 15, 2014)]
[Pages 74107-74111]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-29255]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2014-N209; FF08ESMF00-FXES11120800000F2-145]

Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation 
Plan for the Counties of Yuba and Sutter, CA; Scoping for Environmental 
Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; notice of public scoping meeting; request for 


SUMMARY: Under the National Environmental Policy Act, we, the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, intend to prepare a draft environmental impact 
statement (EIS) for the proposed habitat conservation plan/natural 
community conservation plan for the Counties of Yuba and Sutter, 
hereafter referred to as the Yuba-Sutter Regional Conservation Plan 
(YSRCP). The YSRCP would provide a regional approach for the long-term 
conservation of covered species plan area, while allowing for 
compatible future land use and development under county and city

[[Page 74108]]

general plan updates and the regional transportation plans. The draft 
EIS is being prepared under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended, and the California Natural Community Conservation Planning 
Act. We announce meetings and invite comments.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
January 29, 2015. The public scoping meeting is on Tuesday, January 
6th, from 3-5 and 6-8, at the Yuba County Government Center, Wheatland 
room, 915 8th St, Marysville, CA 95901.

ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, 
please use one of the following methods, and note that your information 
request or comment is in reference to the Yuba-Sutter Regional 
Conservation Plan:
     U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish 
and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 
     In-Person Drop-Off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (916) 414-
6600 to make an appointment during regular business hours to drop off 
comments or view received comments at the above location.
     Fax: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (916) 414-6713, 
Attn.: Ellen McBride.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ellen McBride, Senior Biologist, or 
Mike Thomas, Chief Conservation Planning Division, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, by phone at (916) 414-6600 or by U.S. mail at the 
above address. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf, 
please call the Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.



    We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to prepare 
a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) to evaluate the impacts of 
several alternatives related to the potential issuance of an incidental 
take permit (ITP), as well as impacts of the implementation of the 
supporting proposed habitat conservation plan/natural community 
conservation plan, which we will refer to as the Yuba-Sutter Regional 
Conservation Plan (YSRCP). The EIS will be a joint EIS/environmental 
impact report (EIS/EIR), for which the Service, Yuba and Sutter 
Counties, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) 
intend to gather information necessary for preparation.
    The YSRCP is designed to be a comprehensive regional plan that will 
provide long-term conservation and management of natural communities, 
sensitive species, and the habitats upon which those species depend, 
while accommodating other important uses of the land. It is intended to 
serve as a habitat conservation plan pursuant to the Federal Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and as a 
natural community conservation plan under the California Natural 
Community Conservation Planning Act.
    The YSRCP will address State and Federal endangered species 
compliance requirements for the Counties of Yuba and Sutter (Counties); 
the Cities of Wheatland, Yuba City, and Live Oak; and the YSRCP 
implementing entity that will be established to implement the YSRCP 
(permit applicants) for activities and projects in the YSRCP plan area 
that they conduct or approve. The California Department of 
Transportation (Caltrans), while not directly a permit applicant 
because of limited discretionary authority over projects, may 
participate in the YSRCP by contributing conservation lands to the 
overall conservation strategy established by the YSRCP. The plan area 
generally includes the Counties of Sutter and Yuba; however, the plan 
area does not include the Sutter Buttes, portions of Southern Sutter 
County within the Natomas Basin HCP, portions of Eastern Yuba County 
that are dominated by oak woodlands, and the City of Marysville. The 
permit applicants are currently preparing a complete draft of the YSRCP 
as an HCP/NCCP and the permitting agencies (Service and CDFW) are 
assisting and will be proceeding with agency review and finalization in 
the coming months. The permit applicants intend to apply for a 50-year 
incidental take permit (ITP) from the Service. The permittees are 
seeking authorized incidental take of threatened and endangered species 
that could result from activities covered under the YSRCP. We announce 
meetings and invite comments.
    The Service will serve as the administrative lead for all actions 
related to this Federal Register notice for the EIS component of the 
EIS/EIR. Sutter County will serve as the State lead agency under the 
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for the EIR component. 
Sutter County, in accordance with CEQA, is publishing a similar notice.

Project Summary

    In 2001, Caltrans began the planning process for improvements to 
State Routes 70 and 99 in Yuba and Sutter Counties. Early environmental 
review indicated that the roadway improvement projects would affect 
federally listed species and would lead to additional cumulative 
effects, because the roadway improvements would prompt additional urban 
development within these corridors. In order to ensure compliance with 
the Act, the Service recommended preparation of an HCP, to which the 
Counties and Caltrans agreed. The parties agreed to interim planning 
guidelines during preparation of the HCP, which allowed the Service to 
issue a biological opinion to allow the roadway projects to proceed. 
The Counties, Service, CDFW, and Caltrans formed a working group in 
accordance with the provisions of the biological opinion. The working 
group evaluated conservation planning approaches, and the Counties 
pursued grant funding. The working group agreed to address the 
California Endangered Species Act (CESA), as well as the federal Act, 
by preparing a combined HCP/NCCP. Work on the YSRCP began in 2004 and 
resulted in delineation of the plan area boundaries, determination of 
the covered species, and identification of the permit applicants. 
Development of the YSRCP is still in progress. In 2012, the the permit 
applicants, CDFG, and the Service entered into the YSRCP Planning 
Agreement. The planning agreement set out the initial scope of the 
program and defined the roles and responsibilities of the parties in 
the development of the YSRCP. The planning agreement has helped guide 
the YSRCP planning process and to define the initial scope of the 
effort. Sutter County served as the lead in coordination of the process 
and preparation of the YSRCP.
    The YSRCP's conservation strategy proposes to provide a regional 
approach for the long-term conservation of covered species (see Covered 
Species) and natural communities within the YSRCP plan area, while 
allowing for compatible future land use and development under county 
and city general plan updates and the regional transportation plans. 
The YSRCP identifies and addresses the covered activities that would be 
carried out by the permittees that could result in take of covered 
species within the YSRCP plan area. The proposed YSRCP is intended to 
be consistent with and support compliance with other Federal and State 
wildlife-related laws and regulations, other local conservation 
planning efforts, and county and city general plans.
    The YSRCP is being designed to streamline and coordinate existing 
processes for review and permitting of public and private activities 

[[Page 74109]]

potentially affect protected species. To meet this goal, the YSRCP sets 
out a conservation strategy that includes measures that are intended to 
ensure that impacts on covered species and their habitat related to 
covered activities are avoided, minimized, or mitigated, as 
appropriate. These covered activities encompass the range of existing 
and future activities that are associated with much of the regional 
economy (see Covered Activities).


    Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) prohibits the 
``take'' of wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. The 
Act defines the term ``take'' as: to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed species, or to attempt to 
engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1532). Harm includes significant 
habitat modifications 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)]. 
Pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, we may issue permits to 
authorize ``incidental take'' of listed species. ``Incidental take'' is 
defined by the Act as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. Service regulations 
governing permits for threatened species and endangered species, 
respectively, are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act contains provisions for issuing such 
ITPs to non-Federal entities for the take of endangered and threatened 
species, provided the following criteria are met:
     The take will be incidental;
     The applicants will, to the maximum extent practicable, 
minimize and mitigate the impact of such taking;
     The applicants will develop a proposed HCP and ensure that 
adequate funding for the plan will be provided;
     The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of 
the survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
     The applicants will carry out any other measures that the 
Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes 
of the HCP.
    Thus, the purpose of issuing an ITP is to allow the applicants, 
under their respective regional authority, to authorize development 
while conserving the covered species and their habitat. Implementation 
of a multispecies HCP, rather than a species-by-species or project-by-
project approach, will maximize the benefits of conservation measures 
for covered species and eliminate expensive and time-consuming efforts 
associated with processing individual ITPs for each project within the 
applicants' proposed plan area. The Service expects that the permit 
applicants will request ITP coverage for a period of 50 years.

Plan Area

    The proposed YSRCP plan area (or permit area) includes 
approximately 469,271 acres, including 141,644 acres in Yuba County and 
327,627 acres in Sutter County. This area includes the Cities of 
Wheatland, Yuba City, and Live Oak, and the spheres of influence of 
each jurisdiction. The plan area excludes the areas listed below:
     The Sutter Buttes, because their ecological 
characteristics are distinct from surrounding areas and because the 
Buttes are largely protected from future development;
     Portions of southern Sutter County within the Natomas 
Basin HCP area;
     Portions of eastern Yuba County dominated by oak 
woodlands; and
     Marysville, because of lack of funding and no future 
growth plans.
    The YSRCP plan area is bounded on the west by Yolo and Colusa 
Counties, on the north by Butte County, on the east by Placer County 
and portions of Yuba County outside the Plan Area, and on the south by 
Yolo and Sacramento Counties and by the portion of Sutter County that 
is located within the Natomas Basin HCP Area.
    The boundary of the YSRCP plan area is based on political, 
ecological, and hydrologic factors. The geographic scope focuses on 
valley bottom lands. Areas chosen for inclusion were selected on the 
basis of their likelihood to experience future growth; need to expand 
and maintain infrastructure; ability to provide connectivity to 
adjacent conservation efforts; and feasibility of contributing to a 
plan that is scientifically defensible, flexible, and amenable to 
analysis and implementation. The plan area is broad enough to 
accommodate changes in jurisdictional boundaries over time, provided 
the boundaries do not extend beyond the boundaries of the plan area and 
project impacts do not exceed the take authorization provided by the 
final ITP.

Covered Activities

    The proposed section 10 ITP may allow take of Covered Species 
resulting from proposed Covered Activities on non-Federal land in the 
YSRCP Plan Area. The Permit Applicants intend to request incidental 
take authorization for Covered Species that could be affected by 
activities identified in the YSRCP. The proposed activities within the 
YSRCP Plan Area for which ITP coverage is requested include 
construction and maintenance of facilities and infrastructure, both 
public and private, that are consistent with local general plans and 
local, State, and Federal laws. The following list is not intended to 
be exhaustive; rather, it provides an overview of the types of 
activities that would be expected to occur. Covered Activities fall 
into nine general categories, which are further described below:
    1. Residential, commercial, industrial, and commercial agricultural 
    2. Recreational facilities;
    3. Transportation facilities;
    4. Public and private utilities;
    5. Mining and mineral extraction;
    6. Groundwater supply and delivery facilities;
    7. Flood control maintenance and other stream-related facilities;
    8. Wastewater and waste management facilities; and
    9. Monitoring and management activities within the YSRCP reserves.
    These categories were created to help organize Covered Activities 
into groupings that would have similar impacts on Covered Species. 
Covered Activities, which would normally be implemented or carried out 
in accordance with all other Federal, State, and local laws and 
regulations, are described in greater detail below. In addition to the 
description of Covered Activities below, the YSRP also contains a list 
of specific projects that are currently proposed and that would be 
covered by the Plan.

1. Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Agricultural Facilities

    This category includes construction, operation, maintenance, and 
use of residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural facilities 
within the Plan Area. This category is intended to be as inclusive as 
possible, to accommodate both urban growth and public infrastructure 
projects; it includes the construction, operation, maintenance, and use 
of typical public and private urban and rural facilities. This category 
also includes the construction, maintenance, and use of urban and rural 
facilities, including residential, commercial, industrial, and other 
types of urban development and infrastructure; rural residential 
development and infrastructure; agricultural structures, warehouses, 
and processing facilities; and public service and community serving and 
cultural facilities, including fire and police stations, community and 
convention centers, recreation centers, and similar

[[Page 74110]]

facilities. Vegetation management and control and fuel management 
activities would also be included.

2. Recreational Facilities

    This category includes construction, operation, maintenance, and 
use of recreational facilities in the Plan Area. This category is 
intended to be as inclusive as possible, to accommodate both urban 
growth and public infrastructure projects, and includes but is not 
limited to the construction, maintenance, and use of urban and rural 
facilities, including large recreational facilities such as golf 
courses, parks, and ball fields; recreational facilities maintenance; 
and improvements to and expansion of existing parks and bicycle and 
pedestrian trails. Trail maintenance activities, including vegetation 
management activities, and minor remediation projects within 
recreational facilities, are also proposed for inclusion.

3. Transportation Facilities

    This category includes construction of transportation facilities in 
the Plan Area, including construction, operation, and maintenance of 
State highways, including addition of new lanes and off-ramps; paved 
and unpaved roads, bridges, culverts, and transit facilities; new 
construction and improvements, including road widening, bridges, 
intersection level-of-service improvements, grade separations, and 
sound wall installation; and road repair and rehabilitation, including 
construction of retaining walls to stabilize adjacent embankments. This 
category also includes channel modifications incidental to streambank 
stabilization and road restoration and vegetation management.

4. Public and Private Utilities

    This category includes construction, operation and maintenance, and 
use of public and private utilities in the Plan Area, including 
transmission lines, telecommunication lines, telecommunication towers, 
and gas lines; vegetation management activities; maintenance of small 
utility facilities; and access and maintenance of infrastructure 

5. Mining and Mineral Extraction

    This category includes mining or mineral extraction in the Plan 
Area, including construction, operation, and maintenance of operations 
for mining of sand, soil, aggregate, and other mineral resources, and 
mineral extraction, including gas wells and gas pipelines.

6. Groundwater Supply and Delivery Facilities

    This category includes construction of typical water supply and 
delivery facilities in the Plan Area, including water treatment plants, 
water supply pipelines, percolation ponds, and pump stations; 
groundwater recharge sites and associated facilities; maintenance of 
water supply facilities; and operation and maintenance of pump 
stations, operations yards, utility yards, and corporation yards. 
Surface water projects will not be covered under the YSRCP.

7. Flood Control Maintenance and Other Stream-Related Facilities

    This category includes detention basins and other stream-related 
facilities in the Plan Area, including bank and levee stabilization and 
bank or levee improvements, including levee grouting. This includes the 
construction, operation and maintenance, and use of retention/detention 
ponds; channel modifications incidental to streambank stabilization 
associated with retention/detention ponds; bridge construction and 
replacement, including vehicular, train, and pedestrian bridges; 
culverts; restoration projects outside the reserve system; creek-side 
trail projects; and levee maintenance.

8. Wastewater and Waste Management Facilities

    This category includes construction, operation and maintenance, and 
use of wastewater and waste management facilities in the Plan Area, 
including typical wastewater and waste management facilities; 
stormwater management facilities, such as storm sewer systems, nonpoint 
source reduction, outfalls, and drainage improvements; hazardous 
materials remediation for, and restoration related to, abandoned dumps; 
operation and maintenance of pump stations, operations yards, utility 
yards, and corporation yards; and sewage treatment plants, sanitary 
sewer systems (including rehabilitation of force mains and effluent 
lines, discharge and reclamation lines, and pump stations), water 
recycling, recycling centers, transfer stations, and landfills.

9. Monitoring and Management Activities Within the YSRCP Reserves

    This includes projects and activities associated with 
implementation of the YSRCP's conservation strategy, most of which will 
take place within the reserve system assembled by the Plan. This 
includes construction and maintenance of recreational and management 
and maintenance and operational facilities and infrastructure; 
vegetation management; relocation of covered species from impact sites 
and within reserves as necessary; demolition or removal of structures, 
roads, or artificial livestock ponds to increase public safety or to 
restore habitat; control of introduced predators; stream maintenance 
for habitat purposes; surveys and monitoring for mitigation and 
restoration/enhancement projects; travel through reserves by various 
means for management or maintenance purposes; fire management hazardous 
materials remediation; repair of existing facilities damaged by floods 
or fire; and operations related to water supply for reserve management. 
This category also includes limited recreational use of YSRCP reserves 
and activities related to habitat enhancement, restoration, and 
creation, and species surveys, monitoring, and research.

Covered Species

    Covered Species are those species addressed in the proposed YSRCP 
for which conservation actions will be implemented and for which the 
Permit Applicants will seek incidental take authorizations for a period 
of up to 50 years. Proposed Covered Species are expected to include 
threatened and endangered species listed under the Act, species listed 
under the CESA, and currently unlisted species that have the potential 
to become listed during the life of the YSRCP and have some likelihood 
to occur within the YSRCP Plan Area. The YSRCP is currently expected to 
address 18 listed and non-listed wildlife and plant species. The list 
of proposed Covered Species may change as the planning process 
progresses; species may be added or removed as more is learned about 
the nature of Covered Activities and their impact within the YSRCP Plan 
    The following Federally listed threatened and endangered wildlife 
species are proposed to be covered by the YSRCP. The threatened vernal 
pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), endangered vernal pool tadpole 
shrimp (Lepidurus packardi), threatened valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), and the threatened giant 
garter snake (Thamnophis gigas).
    The following unlisted wildlife species are proposed to be covered 
by the YSRCP: western spadefoot toad (Spea hammondii), western pond 
turtle (Actinemys marmorata), Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni), 
western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis), bank 
swallow (Riparia riparia), California black rail (Laterallus 
jamaicensis coturniculus),

[[Page 74111]]

greater sandhill crane (Grus canadensis tabida), bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus), western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea), 
and tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor).
    ``Take'' as defined under the Act does not apply to listed plant 
species, and therefore cannot be authorized under a section 10 permit. 
However, the Permit Applicants propose to include plant species on the 
permit in recognition of the conservation benefits provided for them 
under an HCP. For the purposes of the Plan, certain plant species are 
further included to meet regulatory obligations under section 7 of the 
Act and CESA. All species included on an ITP would receive assurances 
under the Service's ``No Surprises'' regulations found in 50 CFRs 
17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5). The following unlisted plant species are 
proposed for inclusion in the YSRCP in recognition of the conservation 
benefits provided for them under the YSRCP and the assurances permit 
holders would receive if they are included on a permit: Bogg's Lake 
hedge-hyssop (Gratiola heterosepala), Ahart's dwarf rush (Juncus 
leiospermus var. ahartii), dwarf downingia (Downingia pusilla), and 
legenere (Legenere limosa). Bogg's Lake hedge-hyssop is listed as 
endangered under CESA.

Environmental Impact Statement

    Before deciding whether to issue the requested Federal ITP, the 
Service will prepare a draft EIS in order to analyze the environmental 
impacts associated with issuance of the ITP. In the EIS component of 
the EIS/EIR, the Service will consider the following alternatives: (1) 
The proposed action, which includes the issuance of take authorizations 
consistent with the proposed YSRCP under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act; (2) no action (no permit issuance); and (3) a reasonable range of 
additional alternatives. The EIS/EIR will include a detailed analysis 
of the impacts of the proposed action and alternatives. The range of 
alternatives could include variations in impacts, conservation, permit 
duration, Covered Species, Covered Activities, Permit Area, or a 
combination of these elements.
    The EIS/EIR will identify and analyze potentially significant 
direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of our authorization of 
incidental take (permit issuance) and the implementation of the 
proposed YSRCP on biological resources, land uses, utilities, air 
quality, water resources, cultural resources, socioeconomics and 
environmental justice, recreation, aesthetics, climate change and 
greenhouse gases, and other environmental issues that could occur with 
implementation of each alternative. The Service will also identify 
measures to avoid or minimize any significant effects of the proposed 
action on the quality of the human environment.
    Following completion of the environmental review, the Service will 
publish a notice of availability and a request for comment on the Draft 
EIS/EIR and the applicants' permit application, which will include the 
proposed the YSRCP.

Public Comments

    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this 
notice. We will consider these comments in developing a Draft EIS/EIR 
and in the development of an HCP and ITP. We particularly seek comments 
on the following:
    1. Biological information concerning species in the proposed Plan 
    2. Relevant data concerning these species;
    3. Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of the species;
    4. Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the species;
    5. The presence of archaeological sites, buildings and structures, 
historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic 
preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project 
planning by the National Historic Preservation Act; and
    6. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed development and permit action.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in the ADDRESSES section.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we use in preparing the EIS/EIR document, will be 
available for public inspection by appointment during normal business 
hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the Service's 
Sacramento address (see ADDRESSES).

Scoping Meetings

    See DATES for the date and time of the scheduled public meeting. 
The purpose of the scoping meeting is to provide the public with a 
general understanding of the background of the proposed HCP and 
activities it would cover, alternative proposals under consideration 
for the Draft EIS, and the Service's role and steps to be taken to 
develop the Draft EIS for the proposed HCP/NCCP.
    The primary purpose of these meetings and public comment period is 
to solicit suggestions and information on the scope of issues and 
alternatives for the Service to consider when drafting the EIS. Written 
comments will be accepted at the meeting. Comments can also be 
submitted by methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. Once the Draft 
EIS and proposed HCP/NCCP are complete and made available for review, 
there will be additional opportunity for public comment on the content 
of these documents through additional public comment periods.

Meeting Location Accommodations

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meetings should contact Ellen McBride at 
(916) 414-6600 as soon as possible. In order to allow sufficient time 
to process requests, please call at least one week before the public 
meeting. Information regarding this proposed action is available in 
alternative formats upon request.


    We publish this notice under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 
1501.7, 1506.6, and 1508.22), as well as in compliance with section 
10(c) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: November 25, 2014.
Alexandra Pitts,
Deputy Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific 
Southwest Region, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 2014-29255 Filed 12-12-14; 8:45 am]