[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 49 (Tuesday, March 15, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 12708-12710]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-5017]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for Southern 
California Edison Etiwanda-Miraloma Transmission Line Reconductor 
Project, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; receipt of application.

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SUMMARY: Southern California Edison (applicant) has applied to the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for a 5-year incidental take permit 
for two

[[Page 12709]]

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 Delhi Sands flower-loving fly (Rhaphiomidas terminatus 
abdominalis), listed as endangered under the Act. It also addresses 
impacts to the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugea), a California 
State designated Species of Special Concern. Impacts to both species 
would occur from proposed upgrading of the existing Etiwanda-Miraloma 
Transmission Line in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, California. 
A conservation program to mitigate for the project activities would be 
implemented by the applicant as described in the proposed Southern 
California Edison (SCE) Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan (proposed 
plan), which is available for public review.
    We are requesting comments on the proposed Plan and on the 
preliminary determination that the proposed Plan 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 an 
Environmental Action Statement and the associated Low-Effect Screening 
Form (EAS/screening form), which are also available for public review.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before April 14, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jim Bartel, Field 
Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, California 92008. Written 
comments may be sent by facsimile to (760) 918-0638.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen Goebel, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); 
telephone: (760) 431-9440.

Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing copies of the application, proposed plan, and 
EAS/screening form should immediately contact the Service by telephone 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or by letter to the Carlsbad Fish 
and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Copies of the proposed plan and 
EAS/screening form also are available for public inspection during 
regular business hours at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see 
ADDRESSES).

Background

    Section 9 of the Act and its implementing Federal regulations 
prohibit the take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. 
The definition of take under the Act is 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 animal 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. Regulations governing 
incidental take permits for threatened and endangered species, 
respectively, are found at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.
    The applicant is seeking a permit for take of the endangered Delhi 
Sands flower-loving fly (DSF), and for the burrowing owl should it 
become listed as threatened or endangered under the Act during the life 
of the proposed 5-year permit. DSF were observed on the proposed 
project site. No critical habitat for any listed species occurs on the 
project site. The project site does not contain any threatened or 
endangered species or habitat.
    The proposed transmission line upgrade project would involve the 
one-time removal of existing transmission lines, replacing these lines 
with new, higher capacity lines, and replacing existing ground wire 
with fiber line. A structural modification of the existing support 
system (i.e., the replacement of seven existing towers with taller 
towers) would be necessary to maintain adequate ground clearance.
    Project implementation may result in take of the DSF. Although the 
project area covers 126 acres, total construction impacts that would 
result in habitat disturbance for the DSF and burrowing owl are limited 
to 4.17 acres. Within these 4.17 acres, a total of 0.88 acres of 
temporary and/or permanent disturbance of habitat for the DSF would 
occur.
    The Applicant proposes to minimize and mitigate the effects to the 
DSF associated with the covered activities by fully implementing the 
Plan. The purpose of the proposed Plan's conservation program is to 
avoid and minimize impacts to the DSF during project construction and 
to mitigate unavoidable impacts from temporary habitat disturbance and 
permanent habitat loss. Unavoidable effects to the DSF would be 
mitigated either through the restoration of 1.25 acres of DSF habitat 
within Applicant-owned property or by the purchase of one acre of high-
quality DSF habitat at the Colton Dunes Mitigation Bank, operated by 
the Vulcan Materials Company, in Colton, California.
    Project implementation also may result in adverse effects to the 
burrowing owl. The Applicant proposes to minimize and mitigate the 
effects to the burrowing owl associated with covered activities by 
fully implementing the Plan. Unavoidable effects to the burrowing owl 
would be mitigated by relocating any nesting owls within the 
construction area in accordance with the guidelines and measures 
outlined in the proposed Plan. No critical habitat has been proposed or 
designated for the burrowing owl.
    The Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take 
permit and implementation of the proposed Plan, which includes measures 
to minimize and mitigate impacts of the project on the DSF and 
burrowing owl. Alternatives to the taking of the DSF and burrowing owl 
are considered in the proposed Plan. Under the No Action Alternative, 
no permit would be issued, and no construction would occur. Under the 
Reduced Project Alternative, incidental take of DSF and burrowing owl 
would be authorized, but the applicant would reduce the area of impact. 
Under the ``Participate in Regional Planning'' Alternative, the 
Applicant could eventually receive incidental take authorization but 
the proposed project would be delayed until completion of a regional 
habitat conservation plan in San Bernardino County.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that approval of 
the proposed Plan qualifies for 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). 
Determination of Low-effect Habitat Conservation Plans is based on the 
following three criteria: (1) Implementation of the proposed Plan would 
result in minor or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, 
and candidate species and their habitats; (2) implementation of the 
proposed Plan would result in minor or negligible effects on other 
environmental values or resources; and (3) impacts of the proposed 
Plan, 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

[[Page 12710]]

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 
documentation.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act. We 
will evaluate the permit application, the proposed Plan, and comments 
submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements are met, 
we will issue a permit to the Applicant for the incidental take of the 
DSF, and the burrowing owl should it be listed during the permit term. 
The permit would be contingent upon implementation of the Applicant's 
proposed Plan in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, California.

    Dated: March 9, 2005.
Tom McCabe,
Acting Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
California.
[FR Doc. 05-5017 Filed 3-14-05; 8:45 am]
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