[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 194 (Wednesday, October 7, 2015)]
[Pages 60699-60701]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-25521]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2015-N177; FXES11120800000-156-FF08ECAR00]

Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for Seven Covered Species, 
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Land, Inyo and Mono Counties, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application for a 10-year incidental take permit (ITP) 
pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), from 
the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (applicant). The 
application includes the draft habitat conservation plan (draft HCP) 
for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's operations, 
maintenance, and management activities on its land in Mono and Inyo 
Counties, California, pursuant to the Act. We invite public comment on 
the permit application, draft HCP, and draft Environmental Action 
Statement/Low Effect Screening Form. The Service is considering the 
issuance of a 10-year ITP for seven covered species in a 314,000-acre 
permit area. The permit is needed because take of species could occur 
as a result of the proposed covered activities.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
November 6, 2015.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain copies of the draft HCP and Environmental 
Action Statement/Low Effect Screening Form online at http://www.fws.gov/carlsbad/HCPs/HCP_Docs.html. You may request copies of the 
documents by email, fax, or U.S. mail (see below). These documents are 
also available for public inspection by appointment during normal 
business hours at the office below. Please send your requests or 
written comments by any one of the following methods, and specify 
``LADWP HCP'' in your request or comment.
    Submitting Request for Documents/Comments: You may submit comments 
or requests for more information by any of the following methods:
    Email: fw8cfwocomments@fws.gov. Include ``LADWP HCP'' in the 
subject line of your message. If you choose to submit comments via 
email, please ensure that the file size does not exceed 10 megabytes. 
Emails that exceed the maximum file size may not be properly 
transmitted to the Service.
    Telephone: Kennon A. Corey, Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Office, 
    Fax: Kennon A. Corey, Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Office, 760-
322-4648, Attn.: LADWP HCP.
    U.S. Mail: Kennon A. Corey, Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Office, 
Attn.: LADWP HCP, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 777 East Tahquitz 
Canyon Way, Suite 208, Palm Springs, CA 92262.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup of Documents, or Delivery of Comments: 
Call 760-322-2070 to make an appointment during regular business hours 
at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kennon A. Corey, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Office; telephone 760-322-
2070. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.



    The applicant, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, 
requests an ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. If approved, the 
applicant anticipates the taking of five federally listed species and 
two unlisted species as a result of activities undertaken or authorized 
on lands held by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in Inyo 
and Mono Counties. These activities are associated with water 
conveyance, agriculture, recreation, road maintenance, habitat 
restoration, and other land management activities. Take of listed 
species would be incidental to the applicant's performance or 
authorization of these activities on lands they manage.


    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 
CFR 17 prohibit the ``take'' of fish and wildlife species federally 
listed as endangered or threatened. Take of federally listed fish or 
wildlife is defined under the Act as to ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, 
shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed species, or 
attempt to engage in such conduct'' (16 U.S.C. 1538). ``Harm'' includes 
significant habitat modification 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)). 
Under limited circumstances, we may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take, which is defined under the Act as take that is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. 
Regulations governing incidental take permits for threatened and 
endangered species are found in 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22, respectively. 
All species included on the incidental take permit, if issued, would 
receive assurances under the Service's ``No Surprises'' regulation (50 
CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)).

Applicant's Proposal

    To comply with the requirements of the Act, the draft HCP defines 
biological goals and objectives, evaluates the effects of covered 
activities on covered species, describes a conservation strategy, 
describes a monitoring and adaptive management program, identifies 
changed circumstances and responsive actions, identifies funding 
sources, and identifies alternative actions to the proposed impacts. 
The draft HCP is intended to be a document that will facilitate 
regional species conservation and assist the applicant to better meet 
its legal obligations to provide water and power to the citizens of Los 
Angeles while managing its non-urban lands. The draft HCP will also 
provide a coordinated process for permitting and mitigating the 
incidental take of covered species as an alternative to activity-by-
activity review.
    The draft HCP addresses seven covered species, including three fish 
species and four bird species. The permit would provide take 
authorization for all covered species

[[Page 60700]]

identified by the draft HCP. Take authorized for listed covered species 
would be effective upon permit issuance. Take authorization for 
currently unlisted covered species would become effective concurrent 
with listing, should the species be listed under the Act during the 
permit term.
    The proposed permit would include the following five federally 
listed animal species: Owens tui chub (Siphateles bicolor snyderi), 
Owens pupfish (Cyprinodon radiosus), yellow-billed cuckoo (western 
distinct population segment) (Coccyzus americanus), southwestern willow 
flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), and least Bell's vireo (Vireo 
bellii pusillus). The unlisted species proposed for coverage under the 
draft HCP are the greater sage-grouse (bi-state distinct population 
segment) (Centrocercus urophasianus) and the Long Valley/Owens speckled 
dace (Rhinichthys osculus ssp.).
    The applicant is requesting coverage for incidental take resulting 
from ongoing water and power operations and maintenance activities and 
land management activities (collectively referred to as covered 
activities) in the following categories:
    1. Water gathering and distribution,
    2. Power production and transmission,
    3. Livestock grazing,
    4. Irrigated agriculture,
    5. Outdoor recreation,
    6. Road maintenance and use,
    7. Weed management,
    8. Fire management, and
    9. Habitat enhancement, habitat creation, and monitoring.
    The proposed 314,000-acre permit area is the area where incidental 
take of covered species resulting from covered activities could occur. 
The permit area is non-urban land held by the City of Los Angeles in 
Mono and Inyo Counties; it includes part of the watershed for Mono Lake 
in Mono County and the Owens River, including several of its 
tributaries and much of its watershed in Mono and Inyo Counties.
    The applicant has developed a conservation strategy that includes 
measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate take of covered species 
associated with the covered activities as well as enhance and/or create 
habitat for covered species. The conservation strategy includes 
biological goals and objectives at the landscape, habitat, and species 
levels. The conservation actions to implement the biological goals and 
objectives are habitat based. The rationale for this habitat-based 
approach is that by enhancing/creating habitat, the HCP implementation 
would benefit a broader range of species in addition to the covered 

Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan Alternatives

    In the draft HCP, the applicant considers four alternatives to the 
proposed action: ``Status Quo,'' ``No Action or Avoid Take,'' 
``Activity by Activity Permitting,'' and ``Reduced Species.'' Under the 
``Status Quo'' alternative, the Service would not issue an ITP, but the 
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would continue its operations 
and maintenance activities to provide water and power to the citizens 
of Los Angeles and manage City-owned land in Inyo and Mono Counties. 
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would potentially be in 
violation of the Act should incidental take of a listed species occur 
as a result of their operations and maintenance and land management 
activities. Therefore, the applicant rejected this alternative.
    Under the ``No Action'' or ``Avoid Take'' alternative, no permit 
would be issued and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would 
cease all activities that may result in the incidental take of a 
federally listed species. Ceasing these activities would thereby 
adversely affect its ability to provide water and power to its 
customers and properly manage its lands. This alternative was rejected 
because it does not allow the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power 
to complete its mission.
    The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power evaluated obtaining 
incidental take permits for individual covered activities or an 
``Activity by Activity'' alternative. This alternative would require 
the applicant to prepare multiple habitat conservation plans. It would 
require the Service to prepare multiple environmental documents to 
analyze the issuance of multiple incidental take permits, complete 
multiple public review processes, and then prepare multiple incidental 
take permits. This alternative was rejected because it is inefficient, 
less effective in conserving covered species (i.e., does not provide a 
landscape approach to conservation and management), and more costly.
    Under the ``Reduced Species'' alternative, the applicant considered 
covered species as only the five animal species listed under the Act 
whose ranges substantially overlapped City of Los Angeles land at the 
beginning of the HCP development process, as the applicant would need a 
permit to incidentally take these species. With this alternative, if 
additional species were listed during the term of the permit, the 
applicant would need to develop additional habitat conservation 
planning documents for these newly listed species to obtain incidental 
take coverage and request new incidental take permits or major permit 
amendments. Based upon input from the public and its desire to have 
incidental take coverage for species that might become listed during 
the permit term, the applicant rejected the ``Reduced Species'' 

Our Preliminary Determination Under the National Environmental Policy 

    The Service's proposed permit issuance triggers the need for 
compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. In our analysis 
of the impacts of the proposed permit issuance, we completed a draft 
Environmental Action Statement/Low Effect Screening Form and made a 
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 invite comments on our 
preliminary determination. Three criteria form the basis for this 
determination: (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) HCP impacts, 
considered together with those of other past, present, and reasonably 
foreseeable future projects, would not result in cumulatively 
significant effects. Our preliminary determination is that HCP approval 
and ITP issuance qualify for categorical exclusion under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as provided by the 
Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2.3(A) and 516 DM 8; however, 
we may revise our determination based upon review of public comments 
received in response to this notice (see Public Comments section).

Public Comments

    The Service invites the public to comment on the permit 
application, draft HCP, and draft Environmental Action Statement/Low 
Effect Screening Form during the public comment period (see DATES). 
Please direct written comments to the contacts listed in the ADDRESSES 
section. Please direct questions regarding the draft HCP to the

[[Page 60701]]

Service contacts listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section.

Public Availability of Comments

    All comments and materials we receive, including names and 
addresses, will become part of the administrative record and may be 
released to the public. 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 may 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.

Next Steps

    We provide this notice under section 10(a) of the Act and Service 
regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the permit application, 
associated documents, and comments we receive to make a final 
determination regarding whether the application meets the requirements 
of section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. We will also evaluate whether 
issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP would comply with section 7 of 
the Act by conducting an intra-service consultation. We will use the 
results of our intra-Service consultation, in combination with the 
above findings, in our final analysis to determine whether to issue the 
ITP. If the requirements and issuance criteria are met under section 
10(a), we will issue the ITP to the applicant to authorize incidental 
take of the covered species. We will make a permit decision no sooner 
than 30 days after the date of this notice.


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

G. Mendel Stewart,
Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, Carlsbad, 
[FR Doc. 2015-25521 Filed 10-6-15; 8:45 am]