[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 218 (Friday, November 9, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 67302-67303]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-27310]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R8-FHC-2011-0046]; [FF08E00000-FXES11130800000D2-123]
RIN 1018-AX51


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Termination of the 
Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program; Final Supplemental 
Environmental Impact Statement on the Translocation of Southern Sea 
Otters

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement 
on the Translocation of Southern Sea Otters (final SEIS). The final 
SEIS evaluates options for continuing, revising, or terminating the 
southern sea otter translocation program, which was initiated in 1987. 
The purpose of the program was to achieve a primary recovery action for 
the southern sea otter: to create an established population at San 
Nicolas Island sufficient to repopulate other areas of the range should 
a catastrophic event affect the mainland population. The document 
describes the proposed action and alternatives under consideration and 
discloses the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of 
each of the alternatives.

DATES: We will execute a Record of Decision no sooner than 30 days 
after the date the Environmental Protection Agency publishes its notice 
of availability of the final SEIS in the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: The final SEIS and other documents are available in 
electronic format at the following places:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. In the search field, enter FWS-R8-FHC-2011-0046, 
which is the docket number. Then click on the Search button. On the 
resulting screen, you may view documents associated with the docket.
     Agency Web site: You can view supporting documents on our 
Web site at http://www.fws.gov/ventura/.
     Our office: Call 805-644-1766 to make an appointment, 
during normal business hours, to view the documents, comments, and 
materials in person at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish 
and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003-
7726.
    Alternatively, a limited number of CD-ROMs and hard copies of the 
final SEIS are available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, 
CA 93003-7726.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lilian Carswell, at the above Ventura 
street address, by telephone (805-612-2793), or by electronic mail 
(Lilian_Carswell@fws.gov). Persons who use a telecommunications device 
for the deaf may call the Federal Information Relay Services at 800-
877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We announce the availability of our final 
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Translocation of 
Southern Sea Otters (final SEIS). The final SEIS evaluates options for 
continuing, revising, or terminating the southern sea otter 
translocation program (52 FR 29754, Aug. 11, 1987). The document 
describes the proposed action and alternatives under consideration and 
discloses the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of 
each of the alternatives.

Background

    The final SEIS reevaluates the effects of the southern sea otter 
translocation plan, as described in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service's 1987 environmental impact statement on our program for 
translocation of southern sea otters (May 8, 1987, 52 FR 17486). Using 
information obtained over the decades since the program's 
implementation, we evaluate the impacts of alternatives to the current 
translocation program, including termination or revisions to the 
program. The need for action stems from our inability to meet the goals 
of the southern sea otter translocation program. Contrary to the 
primary recovery objective of the program, the translocation of sea 
otters to San Nicolas Island has not resulted in an established 
population sufficient to repopulate other areas of the range should a 
catastrophic event affect the mainland population. Additionally, 
maintenance of a management zone has proven to be more difficult than 
anticipated and hinders or may prevent recovery of the southern sea 
otter.

[[Page 67303]]

    We consider six alternatives, including a No Action Alternative. 
Alternative 1 resumes implementation of the 1987 southern sea otter 
translocation program as originally defined. Alternative 2 resumes 
implementation of the 1987 southern sea otter translocation program but 
reduces the size of the management zone. Alternatives 3A, 3B, and 3C 
allow for the natural range expansion of southern sea otters through 
termination of the 1987 translocation program, including its associated 
translocation zone and management zone, but differ in the actions to be 
taken with sea otters existing in these zones upon termination of the 
program. Alternative 3A requires the short-term removal of sea otters 
from both the management zone and the translocation zone before natural 
range expansion is allowed. Alternative 3B requires the short-term 
removal of sea otters from the translocation zone only. The Service's 
preferred alternative (Alternative 3C) is to allow for the natural 
range expansion of sea otters through termination of the 1987 
translocation program and to allow sea otters existing in the former 
translocation and management zones to remain there.
    We have afforded other government agencies and the public extensive 
opportunity to participate in the preparation of this EIS. On July 27, 
2000, we published in the Federal Register a notice of intent to 
prepare a SEIS on the southern sea otter translocation program (65 FR 
46172). The notice of intent announced that public scoping meetings 
would be held on August 15, 2000, in Santa Barbara, California, and on 
August 17, 2000, in Monterey, California. In April 2001, we published a 
scoping report and distributed it to scoping meeting participants and 
other interested parties (the scoping report is included as Appendix E 
to the final SEIS).
    We announced the availability of the draft SEIS and the beginning 
of the public comment period on October 7, 2005 (70 FR 58737). The 
comment period was originally scheduled to end on January 5, 2006 (70 
FR 58737). On December 30, 2005, we extended the comment period to 
March 6, 2006 (70 FR 77380), based on requests for a 30-day or 60-day 
extension of the comment period by fishing and environmental groups. We 
accepted oral and written testimony during public hearings held in 
Santa Barbara, California, on November 1, 2005, and Monterey, 
California, on November 3, 2005. During the 5-month comment period, we 
received approximately 20,000 comments from interested individuals and 
organizations.
    Continuing efforts to resolve stakeholder concerns forestalled 
publication of a final SEIS for several years. On September 30, 2009, 
two environmental groups filed suit against the Service under 
provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, alleging that we had 
unreasonably delayed a decision on the translocation program. 
Publication of a final SEIS on the translocation program is part of the 
settlement agreement we reached with plaintiffs on November 23, 2010.
    In order to ensure that our analysis reflects current conditions, 
we revised the draft SEIS. We announced the availability of a revised 
draft SEIS and a proposed rule to implement the preferred alternative 
on August 26, 2011 (76 FR 53381). Appendix G to the revised draft SEIS 
included a list of commenters, summaries of comments received on the 
draft SEIS, and our responses to those comments. The comment period for 
the revised draft SEIS was originally scheduled to end on October 24, 
2011 (76 FR 53381). On November 4, 2011, we announced a reopening of 
the comment period until November 21, 2011 (76 FR 68393), based on a 
request for a 45-day extension by the California Sea Urchin Commission. 
We were unable to grant the full 45-day extension because we required 
sufficient time to consider public comments and to revise the SEIS as 
appropriate while still meeting court settlement deadlines; however, 
the reopened comment period allowed us to accept public comments for 18 
additional days. We accepted oral and written testimony during public 
hearings held in Ventura, California, on September 27, 2011; Santa 
Barbara, California, on October 4, 2011; and Santa Cruz, California, on 
October 6, 2011. Approximately 190 people attended the public hearings, 
and 68 provided testimony.
    In the 78 days during which comments were accepted, we received 
6,843 comment letters, postcards, and emails from interested 
individuals and organizations. Among the comment letters were 5 
petitions with 12,514 signatories.
    Appendix G to the final SEIS includes a list of commenters, 
summaries of comments received on the revised draft SEIS, and our 
responses to those comments.

Authority

    This notice is provided pursuant to Fish and Wildlife Service 
regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: November 1, 2012.
Alexandra Pitts,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-27310 Filed 11-8-12; 8:45 am]
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