[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 113 (Thursday, June 11, 2020)]
[Pages 35661-35662]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-12657]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2020-0021; FF08ESMF00-FXES11140800000-189]

Stanislaus Regional Water Authority Water Supply Project, 
Stanislaus County, California; Draft Categorical Exclusion and Draft 
Habitat Conservation Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of permit application; request for 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the 
availability of a draft categorical exclusion under the National 
Environmental Policy Act. We also announce receipt of an application 
for an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 
and receipt of a draft habitat conservation plan. The Stanislaus 
Regional Water Authority (SWRA) has applied for an incidental take 
permit under the ESA for the SRWA Water Supply Project in Stanislaus 
County, California. The permit would authorize the take of one species 
incidental to the construction, operation, and maintenance of the 
project. We invite the public and local, State, Tribal, and Federal 
agencies to comment on this application. Before issuing the requested 
permit, we will take into consideration any information that we receive 
during the public comment period.

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before July 13, 

    Obtaining Documents: The draft categorical exclusion (draft CatEx), 
draft habitat conservation plan (HCP), and any comments and other 
materials that we receive are available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2020-0021.
    Submitting Comments: To send written comments, please use one of 
the following methods, and note that your information requests or 
comments are in reference to the draft CatEx, draft HCP, or both.
     Internet: Submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov 
under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2020-0021.
     U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. 
FWS-R8-ES-2020-0021; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: 
PRB/3W; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    For more information, see Public Comments under SUPPLEMENTARY 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Timothy Ludwick, Senior Wildlife 
Biologist, or Patricia Cole, Chief, San Joaquin Valley Division, 
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, by phone at 916-414-6600 or via 
the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), announce the availability of a draft categorical exclusion 
(CatEx), prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969, as amended (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing 
regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1506.6. 
This notice also announces the receipt of an application from the 
Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA; applicant), for a 10-year 
incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Application for the permit 
requires the preparation of an HCP with measures to avoid, minimize, 
and mitigate the impacts of incidental take to the maximum extent 
practicable. The applicant prepared the draft SRWA Water Supply Project 
Low Effect Habitat Conservation Plan (draft HCP) pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. The purpose of the CatEx is to assess the 
effects of issuing the permit and implementing the draft HCP on the 
natural and human environment.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544 et seq.) prohibits the 
taking of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered under section 
4 of the ESA; by regulation, this take prohibition also applies to 
certain species listed as threatened, including the Valley elderberry 
longhorn beetle. 50 CFR 17.31(a). Regulations governing permits for 
endangered and threatened species are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32. For 
more about the Federal habitat conservation plan (HCP) program, go to 

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The proposed permit issuance triggers the need for compliance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA; 42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The draft CatEx was prepared to analyze the 
impacts of issuing an ITP based on the draft HCP and to inform the 
public of the proposed action, any alternatives, and associated 
impacts, and to disclose any irreversible commitments of resources.

Proposed Action Alternative

    Under the Proposed Action Alternative, the Service would issue an 
ITP to the applicant for a period of 10 years for certain covered 
activities (described below). The applicant has requested an ITP for 
one covered species (described below), which is listed as threatened 
under the ESA.
Habitat Conservation Plan Area
    The geographic scope of the draft HCP encompasses 16 acres, 
including the entire footprint needed to complete the project. The 
project would result in the installation of 3,900 feet of pipeline in 
the unincorporated portion of central Stanislaus County, California.
Covered Activities
    The proposed section 10 ITP would allow take of one covered species 
from covered activities in the proposed HCP area. The applicant is 
requesting incidental take authorization for covered activities, 
including site preparation, construction, and access road maintenance 
in the project area. The applicant is proposing to implement a number 
of project design features, including best management practices, as 
well as general and species-specific avoidance and minimization 
measures to minimize the impacts of the take from the covered 

[[Page 35662]]

Covered Species
    The Valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus 
dimorphus), a species federally listed as threatened, is proposed to be 
included as a covered species in the proposed HCP:

No-Action Alternative

    Under the No-Action Alternative, the Service would not issue an ITP 
to the applicant, and the draft HCP would not be implemented. Under 
this alternative, the applicant may choose not to install the pipeline, 
or would do so in a manner presumed not to result in the take of ESA 
listed species.

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, the draft CatEx, and the draft HCP. We particularly seek 
comments on the following:
    1. Biological information concerning the species;
    2. Relevant data concerning the species;
    3. Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of the species;
    4. Current or planned activities in the area and their possible 
impacts on the species;
    5. The presence of archeological 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. Any other environmental issues that should be considered with 
regard to the proposed development and permit action.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, or other personal 
identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--might 
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.

Next Steps

    Issuance of an incidental take permit is a Federal proposed action 
subject to compliance with NEPA and section 7 of the ESA. We will 
evaluate the application, associated documents, and any public comments 
we receive as part of our NEPA compliance process to determine whether 
the application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA. If 
we determine that those requirements are met, we will conduct an intra-
Service consultation under section 7 of the ESA for the Federal action 
of the potential issuance of an ITP. If the intra-Service consultation 
determines that issuance of the ITP will not jeopardize the continued 
existence of any endangered or threatened species, or destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat, we will issue a permit to the 
applicant for the incidental take of the covered species.

    Authority We publish this notice under the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347 et 
seq.), and its implementing regulations at 40 CFR 1500-1508, as well 
as in compliance with section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act 
(16 U.S.C. 1531-1544 et seq.) and its implementing regulations at 50 
CFR 17.32(b)(2).

Jennifer Norris,
Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 2020-12657 Filed 6-10-20; 8:45 am]