[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 213 (Monday, November 4, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 66058-66061]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-26366]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2013-N209]; [FF08E00000-FXES11120800000F2-123-F2]


Habitat Conservation Plan for South Sacramento County, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent, request for comments, and notice of public 
scoping meetings.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
gather additional information and to prepare, in coordination with the 
County of Sacramento, California, a joint environmental impact 
statement and environmental impact report (EIS/ EIR) under the National 
Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act 
for the proposed South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). The 
draft EIS/ EIR will evaluate the impacts of several alternatives 
related to the proposed issuance of Endangered Species Act permits to 
eight permit applicants in south Sacramento County, California. The 
permit applicants intend to apply for either a 30-year or a 50-year 
permit from the Service that would authorize the incidental take 
resulting from implementation or approval of covered activities, 
including various kinds of development projects. We also announce 
public scoping meetings and the opening of a public comment period. We 
request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from other 
concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, Tribes, 
industry, or any other interested party.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
December 19, 2013. We will hold two public scoping meetings at 
different locations in the plan area (see Public Meetings under 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for dates, times, and locations). In addition 
to this notice, we will also announce the public scoping meetings in 
local news media and on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento.

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Nina Bicknese, Senior 
Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 
Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. Alternatively, you may send 
comments by facsimile to (916) 414-6713.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation 
Planning Division, or Eric Tattersall,

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Deputy Assistant Field Supervisor, at the address shown above (see 
ADDRESSES) or at (916) 414-6600 (telephone). If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf, please call the Federal 
Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We intend to gather additional information 
and to prepare, in coordination with the County of Sacramento, 
California, a joint environmental impact statement and environmental 
impact report (EIS/ EIR) under the National Environmental Policy Act 
and the California Environmental Quality Act for the proposed South 
Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). This notice revises 
information on the proposed HCP previously published on June 10, 2008 
(73 FR 32729). The draft EIS/ EIR will evaluate the impacts of several 
alternatives related to the proposed issuance of Endangered Species Act 
permits to eight permit applicants (the County of Sacramento, City of 
Elk Grove, City of Rancho Cordova, City of Galt, the Capital Southeast 
Connector Joint Powers Authority, the Sacramento Regional County 
Sanitation District, the Sacramento County Water Agency, and a South 
Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan Joint Powers Authority) for 
activities they would conduct or approve within a proposed 374,000-acre 
plan area located in south Sacramento County, California.
    The permit applicants intend to apply for either a 30-year or a 50-
year permit from the Service that would authorize the incidental take 
of 22 animal species. Incidental take would result from implementation 
or approval of covered activities, including private development 
projects, transportation facilities, surface and groundwater delivery 
facilities, water treatment facilities, solid waste sanitation 
facilities, public facilities, recreation facilities, energy utility 
facilities, aggregate mining activities, and future preserve land-
management activities. We also announce public scoping meetings and the 
opening of a public comment period. We request data, comments, new 
information, or suggestions from other concerned governmental agencies, 
the scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested 
party.
    We publish this notice in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; 
NEPA), and its implementing regulations in the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1500-1508, as well as in compliance with 
section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; 
Act), and in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act 
(CEQA). We intend to prepare a joint draft EIS/ EIR to evaluate the 
impacts of several alternatives related to the potential issuance of an 
incidental take permit (ITP) to the permit applicants, as well as 
impacts of the implementation of the supporting proposed habitat 
conservation plan (HCP).
    The permit applicants propose to prepare the South Sacramento 
Habitat Conservation Plan as part of their application for an ITP under 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. The proposed HCP will include measures 
necessary to minimize and mitigate the impacts, to the maximum extent 
practicable, of potential proposed taking of federally listed species 
to be covered by the ITP, and the habitats upon which they depend. The 
covered activities and projects proposed by the HCP would disturb a 
maximum total of 42,243 acres within the plan area and would include 
the construction of residential and commercial development projects, 
improvements to existing transportation facilities, new transportation 
facilities (including the proposed Capital Southeast Connector 
highway), new surface water and groundwater delivery facilities, water 
treatment facilities, solid waste sanitation facilities, public 
facilities (including fire stations, police stations, hospitals, 
schools, community centers, cemeteries, and administration centers), 
indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, energy utility facilities, 
aggregate mining activities, and future habitat-management activities.
    The plan area, the area in which all impacts would be evaluated and 
all conservation actions will be implemented, is approximately 374,000 
acres within unincorporated south Sacramento County and within the 
cities of Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, and Galt. The approximate 
geographical boundary of the plan area would be the area bound by U.S. 
Highway 50 in the north, the San Joaquin County line to the south, the 
Sacramento River levee and County Road J11 to the west, and the 
Sacramento County line with El Dorado and Amador counties to the east. 
The 374,000-acre plan area would include a 123,000-acre urban 
development area (UDA) where most ground-disturbing development, 
infrastructure activities, and projects would occur. The UDA 
corresponds to land within the County's urban services boundary (USB); 
and to land within the city limits of Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, and 
Galt; land within Elk Grove's proposed sphere of influence; and land 
within Galt's adopted sphere of influence.
    Almost all ground disturbance and incidental take of federally 
listed endangered and threatened species would occur on approximately 
40,000 acres within the UDA. A limited amount of infrastructure 
development, such as planned road widening projects and recycled water 
conveyance pipelines, would disturb or remove approximately 2,443 acres 
of native and naturalized landcovers outside the UDA. In addition, the 
HCP would include an aquatic resource program that would avoid, 
minimize, or fully mitigate potential covered activity impacts to 
existing aquatic resources within the plan area, and would facilitate 
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' development of a process for permit 
applicant compliance with the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.). 
The permit applicants also propose to permanently preserve or restore 
approximately 8,950 acres of the UDA and preserve approximately 40,980 
acres outside the UDA, following criteria that would expand the size of 
existing preserves and create linkages and corridors between existing 
preserves. In total, the HCP proposes to permanently preserve or 
restore 49,930 acres of native and naturalized landcovers within the 
plan area boundary. When combined with the existing preserve lands, the 
HCP would result in a large and interconnected 113,623-acre habitat 
reserve system within the 374,000-acre plan area.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the taking of 
fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened under 
section 4 of the Act. 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. The term ``harass'' is defined in the regulations as to 
carry out actions that create the likelihood of injury to listed 
species to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral 
patterns, which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The term ``harm'' is defined in the 
regulations as significant habitat modification or degradation that 
results in death or injury of listed species by significantly impairing 
essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering (50 CFR 17.3).
    However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue 
permits that allow the take of federally

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listed species, provided that the take is incidental to, but not the 
purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing permits 
for endangered and threatened species can be found at 50 CFR 17.22 and 
17.32, respectively. Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act contains provisions 
for issuing such incidental take permits to non-Federal entities for 
the take of endangered and threatened species, provided the following 
criteria are met:
    1. The taking will be incidental;
    2. The applicants will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize 
and mitigate the impact of such taking;
    3. The applicants will develop a proposed HCP and ensure that 
adequate funding for the HCP will be provided;
    4. The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
    5. The applicants will carry out any other measures that the 
Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes 
of the HCP.
    Thus, the purpose of issuing ITPs is to allow the permit 
applicants, under their respective authorities, to authorize new 
development and infrastructure, while conserving covered species and 
their habitats. Implementation of a regional habitat conservation plan, 
rather than a species-by-species or project-by-project approach, would 
enhance benefits of conservation measures for covered species and would 
eliminate expensive and time-consuming efforts associated with 
processing individual ITPs for each project within the applicants' 
proposed plan area. The Service expects that the permit applicants will 
request ITP coverage for a period of 30 to 50 years.

Alternatives in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

    The proposed action alternative presented in the draft EIS/EIR will 
be compared to a no-action alternative. The no-action alternative 
represents estimated future conditions to which the proposed action's 
estimated conditions can be compared. Other action alternatives 
considered, including their potential impacts, will also be addressed 
in the draft EIS/ EIR and compared to a no-action condition.

No-Action Alternative

    Because the proposed covered activities would provide needed 
regional infrastructure and economic development, these types of 
activities would occur within the plan area regardless of whether a 
10(a)(1)(B) ITP is requested or issued. Although future activities 
would be similar to the covered activities proposed by the HCP, not all 
activities would necessitate an incidental take permit or consultation 
with the Service. Under the no action alternative, the permit 
applicants could implement a covered activity that fully avoids impacts 
to protected species and their habitats. Where potential impacts to 
federally protected species could not be avoided, the permit applicants 
could minimize and mitigate their impacts through individual formal or 
informal consultations with the Service. When applicable, the permit 
applicants would potentially seek individual section 10(a)(1)(B) ITPs 
on a project-by-project basis. Under the no-action alternative, the 
permit applicants may also satisfy the requirement of the Clean Water 
Act's sections 404 and 401, the California Fish and Game code section 
1600, and the Porter-Cologne Act, and other applicable law, on a 
project-by-project basis. Thus, under the no-action alternative, 
various permit applicants would likely need to develop and file 
numerous separate permit applications over the 30-to-50-year project 
period. This activity-by-activity approach could be more time consuming 
and less efficient and could result in smaller and fragmented 
mitigation areas.

Proposed Action Alternative

    The proposed action alternative is the issuance of an ITP for the 
take of covered species, caused by covered activities within the 
proposed plan area, for a period of 30 to 50 years. The proposed action 
HCP, developed and implemented by the permit applicants, must meet the 
requirements of section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Act by providing measures to 
minimize and mitigate the effects of the potential incidental take of 
covered species to the maximum extent practicable. The proposed HCP 
allows for a comprehensive mitigation approach for unavoidable impacts, 
and reduces permit processing times and efforts for the permit 
applicants and the Service.
    Covered activities under the proposed HCP are otherwise lawful 
activities that applicants carry out consistent with all HCP 
requirements, including, but not limited to:
    1. Construction of private development projects within the UDA 
(e.g., single- and multi-family homes, residential subdivisions, 
commercial or industrial projects, offices, and park infrastructure);
    2. Installation and/or maintenance of utility infrastructure within 
the UDA (e.g., transmission or distribution lines and facilities 
related to electric, telecommunication, natural gas, and other types of 
energy utilities);
    3. Installation and/or maintenance of surface and groundwater 
delivery facilities within the UDA;
    4. Construction, maintenance, and/or improvement of water treatment 
facilities within the UDA;
    5. Construction, maintenance, and/or improvement of solid waste 
sanitation facilities within the UDA;
    6. Construction, use, and maintenance of public facilities (e.g., 
fire stations, police stations, schools, hospitals, community centers, 
cemeteries, and administration centers) within the UDA;
    7. Construction, use, or maintenance of other public 
infrastructure, including indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, 
within the UDA;
    8. Excavation, use, maintenance, and/or expansion of quarries, 
gravel mining, or other aggregate mining activities within the UDA;
    9. Construction, maintenance, and/or improvement of new roads, 
bridges, and other transportation infrastructure facilities outside the 
UDA and within the UDA, including the proposed Southeast Connector 
highway;
    10. Construction, maintenance, and/or improvement of recycled water 
conveyance pipelines and outside the UDA and within the UDA; and
    11. Maintenance and land management activities on conservation 
lands outside the UDA and within the UDA.
    We anticipate that the following 30 species of plants and animals, 
including seven federally listed threatened (T) or endangered (E) 
species, will be included as covered species in the permit applicants' 
proposed HCP:

Mid-valley fairy shrimp (Branchinecta mesovallensis)
Ricksecker's water scavenger beetle (Hydrochara rickseckeri)
Valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus 
dimorphus) (T)
Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi) (E)
Vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) (E)
California tiger salamander, central California distinct population 
segment (Ambystoma californiense) (T)
Western spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus hammondii)
Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) (T)
Western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata marmorata and A. m. 
pallida) (two subspecies)
American badger (Taxidea taxus)
Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus)
Western red bat (Lasiurus blossevillii)
Yuma myotis bat (Myotis yumanensis)
White-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus)
Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis)
Greater sandhill crane (Grus canadensis tabida)
Loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

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Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus)
Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor)
Western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea)
Ahart's dwarf rush (Juncus leiospermus var. ahartii)
Boggs Lake hedge hyssop (Gratiola heterosepala)
Dwarf downingia (Downingia pusilla)
Legenere (Legenere limosa)
Pincushion navarretia (Navarretia myersii)
Sacramento Orcutt grass (Orcuttia viscida) (T)
Slender Orcutt grass (Orcuttia tenuis) (T)
Sanford's arrowhead (Sagittaria sanfordii)

    The permit applicants seek incidental take authorization for all 
applicable covered species. Candidate and federally listed species that 
are not likely to be taken by the covered activities, and therefore not 
covered by the proposed ITP, may also be addressed in the proposed HCP, 
to explain why the permit applicants believe these species will not be 
taken.

Environmental Review and Next Steps

    The Service will conduct an environmental review to analyze the 
proposed action, along with other alternatives evaluated, and the 
associated impacts of each. The draft EIS/EIR will be the basis for the 
impact evaluation for each covered species. The draft EIS/EIR is 
expected to provide biological descriptions of the affected species and 
habitats, as well as the effects of the proposed action and other 
alternatives on other resources, such as soils, geology, water quality, 
agriculture, vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, cultural resources, 
transportation, air quality, land use, recreation, water use, local 
economy, and environmental justice.
    Following completion of the environmental review, the Service will 
publish a notice of availability and a request for comment on the draft 
EIS/EIR and on the permit applications, which will include the proposed 
HCP. We anticipate that the draft EIS/EIR and proposed HCP will be 
completed and available to the public in March or April 2014.

Public Comments

    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from 
other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, 
Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this notice. We will 
consider these comments in developing an EIS/EIR and in the development 
of a South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan and incidental take 
permit. We particularly seek comments on the following:
    1. Biological information concerning the proposed covered species;
    2. Relevant data concerning the proposed covered species;
    3. Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of the proposed covered species;
    4. Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the proposed covered species;
    5. The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, 
historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic 
preservation concerns that are required to be considered in project 
planning by the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et 
seq.); and
    6. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed development and the permit 
action.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in the ADDRESSES section.
    Comments and materials we receive on this notice will be available 
for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at 
our office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, email address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comments, 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 review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Public Scoping Meetings

    The purpose of scoping meetings is to provide the public with a 
general understanding on the background of the proposed HCP and 
activities it would cover, alternative proposals under consideration 
for the draft EIS/EIR, the Service's role, and steps to be taken to 
develop the draft EIS/EIR for the proposed HCP. Two public scoping 
meetings will be held:
    1. Wednesday, November 20, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the 
Anthony Pescetti Community Room, Galt Police Facility, 455 Industrial 
Drive, Galt, CA 95632.
    2. Thursday November 21, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the 
Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Large Conference Room 202, 
2nd Floor, 1400 Tenth Street, Sacramento, California, 95814.
    The meeting will include a 1-hour open house prior to the formal 
scoping meeting. The open house will provide an opportunity to learn 
about the proposed action, permit area, and species covered. The open 
house will be followed by a presentation of the proposed action, a 
summary of the NEPA process, and comments from the public. The primary 
purpose of these meetings and public comment period is to solicit 
suggestions and information on the scope of issues and scope of 
alternatives for the Service to consider when drafting the EIS/EIR. 
Written comments will be accepted at the meetings. Comments can also be 
submitted by methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. Once the draft 
EIS/EIR and proposed HCP are complete and made available for review, 
there will be additional opportunity for public comment on the content 
of these documents during a 90-day draft EIS/EIR public comment period.

Meeting Location Accommodations

    Please note that the meeting locations are accessible to wheelchair 
users. If you require additional accommodations, please notify us at 
least 1 week in advance of the meeting (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).

Authority

    We provide this notice under section 10 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.) and by NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1501.7, 1506.6, and 1508.22).

    Dated: October 29, 2013.
Alexandra Pitts,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
California.
[FR Doc. 2013-26366 Filed 11-1-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P