[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 168 (Monday, August 31, 2015)]
[Pages 52486-52488]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-21457]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2015-N165; FXES11120800000-145-FF08EVEN00]

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan, Southern 
California Gas Company, Pipeline 1010--Purisima, Santa Barbara County, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have received an 
application from Southern California Gas Company for a 5-year 
incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended. The application addresses the potential for ``take'' of the 
federally endangered California tiger salamander and the federally 
threatened California red-legged frog, likely to occur incidental to 
excavation and maintenance of a gas pipeline between Buellton and 
Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County, California. We invite comments from 
the public on the application package, which includes the low-effect 
habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the endangered California tiger 
salamander and the threatened California red-legged frog. You may 
download a copy of the draft HCP at

[[Page 52487]]

http://www.fws.gov/ventura/, or you may request copies by U.S. mail or 
phone (see below).

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked by September 30, 

ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit comments related to 
the permit application or HCP, please use one of these methods:
    1. U.S. Mail: You may mail written comments to Stephen P. Henry, 
Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Rd., 
Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003.
    2. In-Person Drop-off: You may hand-deliver written comments to the 
U.S. mail address above.
    3. Email: You may submit comments by electronic mail to 
socalgaspipeline1010hcp@fws.gov. If submitting an electronic mail 
attachment, please use one of these document formats: Adobe portable 
document format (.pdf), Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx), rich text file 
(.rtf), ASCII or Unicode plaintext (.txt), Microsoft Excel (.xls, 
.xlsx), Word Perfect (.wpd), or Microsoft Works (.wps).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Simmons, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, by U.S. mail at the address above, or by telephone at (805) 
644-1766. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-
8339 to contact the above individual during normal business hours. The 
FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or 
question with the above individual. You will receive a reply during 
normal business hours.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice advises the public that we 
received an application from Southern California Gas Company 
(applicant) for a 5-year incidental take permit (ITP) under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The application addresses the potential for 
``take'' of the federally endangered California tiger salamander 
(Ambystoma californiense) and federally threatened California red-
legged frog (Rana draytonii) (collectively, covered species) likely to 
occur incidental to the excavation and maintenance of pipeline 1010 at 
four locations between the cities of Buellton and Lompoc, Santa Barbara 
County, California. The applicant prepared an HCP that includes a 
conservation program to avoid and minimize effects on suitable habitat 
for the covered species and the likelihood of take as a result of 
activities covered in the HCP. The applicant also would mitigate for 
incidental take of the covered species likely to result from activities 
covered in the HCP. In response to the applicant's permit application, 
we completed a screening form for low-effect HCPs and determined that 
the HCP qualifies as a low-effect plan and our proposed action (issuing 
an ITP to the applicant) is eligible for a categorical exclusion under 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.). We invite the public to comment on the application 
package, which includes the HCP, the draft screening form, and 
associated documents.


    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) listed the Santa 
Barbara County distinct population segment of the California tiger 
salamander as endangered on September 21, 2000 (65 FR 57242). The 
Service listed the California red-legged frog as threatened on May 23, 
1996 (61 FR 25813). Section 9 of the Act and its implementing 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of fish or wildlife species listed as 
endangered or threatened. ``Take'' is defined under the Act to include 
the following activities: ``To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any 
such conduct'' (16 U.S.C. 1532). Under limited circumstances consistent 
with section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, we may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take of listed species. ``Incidental take'' is take that is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out of an otherwise 
lawful activity. Regulations governing incidental take permits for 
endangered and threatened species are provided at 50 CFR 17.22 and 
17.32, respectively. In addition to meeting other criteria, activities 
covered by an incidental take permit must not jeopardize the continued 
existence of federally listed fish, wildlife, or plant species in the 
wild. Under the Service's ``No Surprises'' regulations (50 CFR 
17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)), permittees properly implementing an HCP 
are provided assurances for each species covered by the HCP.

Proposed Action and Alternatives

    Southern California Gas proposes to excavate, inspect, and, if 
necessary, repair a natural gas pipeline at four locations along the 
Highway 246 corridor between the cities of Buellton and Lompoc in Santa 
Barbara County. The project purpose is to inspect identified anomalies 
in the pipeline, ensure pipeline integrity, and comply with rules and 
regulations related to pipeline safety--specifically, the Pipeline 
Safety Improvement Act of 2002 and all State and Federal regulations 
promulgated since that time. Each of the four excavation sites would be 
1,600 square feet or less, and the project would disturb a maximum of 
1.04 acres. The Applicant would use existing roadways to access the dig 
areas to the extent possible to minimize habitat disturbance. Southern 
California Gas expects to complete the project in 16 weeks or less.
    All four dig locations are in suitable upland habitat for the 
covered species and within dispersal distance of breeding habitat. The 
covered activities could cause take during equipment staging and 
excavating the dig sites, as well as through capture and relocation; 
however, the latter is intended to reduce the likelihood of injury or 
death of the covered species by moving individuals out of harm's way.
    The conservation program described in the HCP includes measures to 
avoid and minimize impacts to the covered species, including but not 
limited to worker training sessions; surveys and monitoring of work 
areas; relocating individuals of the covered species observed in work 
areas; and daily, seasonal, and weather-specific work restrictions. The 
applicant will limit ground disturbance to a total of 1.04 acres of 
upland habitat. No work will be conducted in any streams, drainages, 
riparian areas, wetlands, or other aquatic features, and the project 
would not disturb aquatic breeding habitat for the covered species. The 
applicant will provide off-site mitigation for temporary impacts to 
upland habitat and any impacts of taking the covered species as a 
result of the project by purchasing credits in the La Purisima 
Conservation Bank.
    In the HCP, the applicant considers two alternatives to the 
proposed taking of the covered species: ``No Action'' and ``Redesigned 
Project.'' Under the ``No Action'' alternative, Southern California Gas 
would not submit a permit application to the Service and would not 
receive an ITP for pipeline maintenance activities. This alternative 
would avoid impacts to the covered species; however, this alternative 
also would preclude maintenance of the pipeline and, for this reason, 
the applicant rejected the ``No Action'' alternative. Under the 
``Redesigned Project'' alternative, the applicant would relocate the 
proposed staging area to reduce impacts to upland habitat for the 
covered species. However, realistic alternative locations for the 
staging area would be either closer to breeding habitat for the covered 
species or adjacent to Highway 246. The

[[Page 52488]]

applicant rejected this alternative due to increased potential effects 
to the covered species and increased risk to project workers.

Our Preliminary Determination

    We are requesting comments on our preliminary determination that 
the applicant's proposal will have a minor or negligible effect on the 
covered species and that the plan qualifies as a low-effect HCP as 
defined by our Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). 
We base our determinations on three criteria: (1) Implementation of the 
proposed project as described in the HCP would result in minor or 
negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and/or candidate 
species and their habitats; (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 those 
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 on our analysis of these criteria, we made a preliminary 
determination that approval of the HCP and issuance of an ITP to 
Southern California Gas qualify for categorical exclusion under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as provided 
by the Department of Interior Manual (43 CFR 46 and 516 DM 8). Based on 
our review of public comments that we receive in response to this 
notice, we may revise this preliminary determination.

Next Steps

    We will evaluate the permit application, including the HCP and 
comments we receive, to determine whether the application meets the 
issuance criteria of section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act and its 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32). We also will 
evaluate whether issuance of the ITP would comply with section 7(a)(2) 
of the Act by conducting an intra-Service consultation consistent with 
section 7 of the Act. We will use the results of this consultation, in 
combination with the above findings, in our final analysis to determine 
whether or not to issue an ITP. If the requirements are met, we will 
issue the ITP to the Applicant for the incidental take of the 
California tiger salamander and California red-legged frog. We will 
make the final permit decision no sooner than 30 days after the date of 
this notice.

Public Comments

    You may submit comments on the permit application, HCP, screening 
form, and associated documents by any one of the methods in ADDRESSES.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, electronic 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 can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal 
identifying information from public view, 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).

    Dated: August 24, 2015.
Stephen P. Henry,
Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, Ventura, 
[FR Doc. 2015-21457 Filed 8-28-15; 8:45 am]