Record of Decision for Customs and Border Protection's Office of Border Patrol Operation Rio Grande in the Office of Border Patrol McAllen Sector, Texas, 25104-25106 [05-9518]

Download as PDF 25104 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 91 / Thursday, May 12, 2005 / Notices (1) Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency/component, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) Evaluate the accuracy of the agencies/components estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (3) Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) Minimize the burden of the collections of information on those who are to respond, including the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses. Title: Establishment of a Bonded Warehouse (Bonded Warehouse Regulations). OMB Number: 1651–0041. Form Number: N/A. Abstract: 19 CFR section 19 sets forth requirements for bonded warehouses. This includes applications needed to establish a bonded warehouse; to receive free materials the warehouse; and to make alterations, suspensions, relocation or discontinuance of a bonded warehouse. Current Actions: There are no changes to the information collection. This submission is being submitted to extend the expiration date. Type of Review: Extension (without change). Affected Public: Businesses, Institutions. Estimated Number of Respondents: 198. Estimated Time Per Respondent: 24 hours. Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 4,910. Estimated Total Annualized Cost on the Public: $108,020. If additional information is required contact: Tracey Denning, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Room 3.2.C, Washington, DC 20229, at 202– 344–1429. Dated: May 3, 2005. Tracey Denning, Agency Clearance Officer, Information Services Branch. [FR Doc. 05–9520 Filed 5–11–05; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4820–02–P VerDate jul<14>2003 19:04 May 11, 2005 Jkt 205001 DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Record of Decision for Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Border Patrol Operation Rio Grande in the Office of Border Patrol McAllen Sector, Texas Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security. ACTION: Record of decision general notice. AGENCY: SUMMARY: This Record of Decision (ROD) document announces the final decision regarding the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Office of Border Patrol’s Operation Rio Grande regarding potential environmental impacts resulting from Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP), Office of Border Patrol (OBP), deployment of the lighting, roads, fences, mowing and boat ramp construction on the United States and Mexican border in the McAllen Sector of the OBP. The final EIS for Operation Rio Grande was made available for public review and was filed for public review with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which published it in the Federal Register on June 17, 2004. This ROD will be incorporated into the final EIS after publication. The Operation Rio Grande has five project actions covered by this EIS: Lighting installation (permanent and portable), road improvement, fencing construction, boat ramp construction, and mowing. These actions are intended to reduce the influx of illegal entrants and contraband into the McAllen Sector, increase arrest of those not deterred; increase safety for operations by OBP agents; decrease response time; and decrease the risk from drowning as victims attempt to cross the river and/or irrigation canals. Since September 11, 2001, terrorist activities have also become a major focus of the OBP. This EIS was prompted by a lawsuit brought by the Defenders of Wildlife because of the potential impact that OBP activities may have on the habitat of two endangered species in the area, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and jaguarundi (Hepailurus yagouaroundi) cats. The adjustments to lighting and other construction and mowing activities are incorporated into this ROD and were agreed to by the OBP and the Defenders of Wildlife in the settlement agreement for Defenders of Wildlife v. Meissner. The final EIS reflects this agreement and PO 00000 Frm 00091 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 states that no significant impacts occur to geology, soils, climate, or air quality. Short-term disturbances may occur to water resources. Aquatic systems could be impacted; however, the effects will decrease over time. The socioeconomic impacts would primarily be beneficial. Lastly, some immediate and direct impacts to wildlife from construction activities would occur. Smaller and less mobile wildlife such as amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals may be adversely impacted by heavy machinery. The increased noise and activity levels during constructions could temporarily disturb breeding behavior of some wildlife inhabiting the areas adjacent to the project; however, little permanent damage to the populations of such organisms would result. The proposed lighting improvements could potentially impact migration, dispersal, and foraging activities of nocturnal species. Two endangered species, the ocelot and jaguarundi, could potentially be impacted by the proposed project. These species are largely nocturnal, and it is expected they would avoid illuminated areas. Extensive coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was conducted to determine the position and direction of the proposed lighting structures to minimize the illumination to brush and other types of screening cover for these animals. Proposed mitigation measures such as road closures and habitat construction would increase the amount of habitat for these species. Reducing illegal immigrant traffic in the McAllen Sector would further reduce impacts to the habitat. Some, as yet, unidentified cultural resource sites may be impacted but mitigation will be provided through an initial assessment of the site, its anticipated severity, and proposals for the appropriate mitigation will be coordinated with the State Historic Preservation Officer. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Suite 3.4–D, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington DC 20229, Attn: Mr. Kevin Feeney. Mr. Feeney is also available at (202) 344– 2336 or at Kevin.Feeney@dhs.gov. No public comment period is required for the ROD. Record of Decision Operation Rio Grande Starr, Hidalgo, and Cameron Counties, Texas I have reviewed the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Operation Rio Grande, as well as correspondence received in response to E:\FR\FM\12MYN1.SGM 12MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 91 / Thursday, May 12, 2005 / Notices coordination and public review of the draft EIS. Operation Rio Grande is a strategy initiated in August 1997 by the Office of Border Patrol (OBP, formerly the U.S. Border Patrol (BP)), a Federal law enforcement branch of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP, which includes functions transferred from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)), to aid in reducing illegal immigration and drug trafficking along the Rio Grande corridor of the McAllen Sector of the OBP. The purpose of the proposed project is to facilitate OBP missions to reduce or eliminate illegal drug activity and illegal entry along the southwestern border of the United States and to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States. A draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for Operation Rio Grande was circulated for review and comment to Federal, State, and local agencies and to organizations, public groups, and the local public known to have an interest in the project in September 1998. Comments received on the draft EA were addressed, and the EA became final in August 1999. However, the final EA was never distributed, because the Defenders of Wildlife filed a lawsuit in August 1999 (Defenders of Wildlife v. Meissner D.D.C. case no. 1:99CV02262) against the former INS and BP challenging Operation Rio Grande. This case was settled on September 8, 2000. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, OBP prepared an EIS that analyzed the potential beneficial and adverse impacts of Operation Rio Grande in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended. Five project actions were covered by the EIS: Lighting installation, road improvement, fencing construction, boat ramp construction, and mowing. These actions are intended to reduce the influx of illegal immigration and drugs into the McAllen Sector, especially into towns; increase arrests of those not deterred; increase safety for operations by OBP agents; decrease response time; and decrease the risk from drowning as illegal entrants attempt to cross the river and/or irrigation canals. In light of the September 11, 2001, terrorist activities, securing the U.S. borders against illegal entry has become an increased focus of the OBP. The proposed project actions presented in the EIS are anticipated to significantly aid in securing the U.S. border against illegal entry of any kind. Two types of lighting are addressed in the final EIS: Permanent and portable. All portable lighting is currently in place; no more portable lighting is proposed in the final EIS. All proposed VerDate jul<14>2003 19:04 May 11, 2005 Jkt 205001 lighting is the permanent type. Proposed lighting locations were determined by the OBP agents in each McAllen Sector Station based on their knowledge of traffic in their station and on the sitespecific needs of each station to deter or direct traffic in that station. Lighting acts as a deterrent to illegal immigration and smuggling, and as an aid to the OBP agents in capturing illegal entrants or smugglers after they have entered the United States. It also provides protection to illegal entrants from criminals on the United States side of the Rio Grande. ´ Road improvement (adding caliche to the road surface) is necessary to allow the present and incoming agents to effectively perform the functions required of them. Additionally, upgrading the most crucial roads to allweather roads would lead to a reduction in the number of roads needed. All road improvements addressed in the final EIS are on existing roads; no new ´ construction is planned. Caliche is the most benign all-weather topping available, and its use is proposed for Operation Rio Grande road improvements. Border fences are located mostly in urbanized areas near the land Ports of Entry and are an effective deterrent to illegal drug and immigrant trafficking. Fencing also facilitates enforcement actions by hindering escape. Fencing has proved to be an effective measure for controlling the border. The McAllen Sector currently has a fleet of 18 boats and none will be added to this fleet specifically because of Operation Rio Grande. The boats are used for surveillance, observation, and information gathering and, therefore, are operated as inconspicuously as possible. The boats are not used for pursuit since they are on international waters. Boat ramps are utilized along the Rio Grande and other large surface-water bodies by OBP agents and other law enforcement officers to deter and/or apprehend those involved in illegal activities. These illegal activities include drug smuggling and transport of illegal immigrants by boat, as well as persons involved in smuggling or trying to enter the United States illegally by wading or swimming. Currently, under a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the USIBWC mows certain areas between the USIBWC levee and the Rio Grande once a year between July and October. Despite the annual mowing, some of the herbaceous vegetation grows tall enough to hinder the efforts of the OBP to apprehend illegal entrants and drug PO 00000 Frm 00092 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 25105 traffickers. Increased mowing would make it easier and safer for OBP agents to apprehend these persons. The application of Operation Rio Grande dictates that a viable alternative be one that meets the purpose and need to develop a border security system that also meets the mission of the OBP. Two alternatives, the No-Action Alternative and the Preferred Alternative, were carried forward throughout the final EIS since all other alternatives (more lighting with larger coverage area, including some in National Wildlife Refuges and inside the USIBWC flood control levee; different placement and aiming of the lighting; additional boat ramps; different boat ramp locations; additional mowings; extensive fencing) were eliminated from consideration through a dynamic application of the intent of the NEPA process using interagency coordination and cooperation (final EIS, Section 2.3). Two public meetings for Operation Rio Grande were held in April 2001. The purpose of the meetings was to get public input on what issues and alternatives should be addressed in the EIS. The public’s view, and concerns were used in the preparation of the EIS. One or more copies of the draft EIS (DEIS) were sent to State and Federal resource agencies, and the general public on February 20, 2003, requesting comments by April 14, 2003. However, a public notice soliciting comments on the DEIS was not published in the Federal Register until March 21, 2003, and the comment period was extended by letter and newspaper notice until May 5, 2003. Those comments are included in the final EIS in Appendix D. The purpose of the actions, as noted in Section 1.2 of the final EIS, is to increase the efficiency and safety of the OBP agents and the safety of U.S. citizens and illegal entrants in the McAllen Sector while the OBP agents fulfill their obligations under U.S. laws and directives. It was noted in the final EIS that the number of OBP agents is not determined by Operation Rio Grande, although the method in which they are used is. The recommended plan is a mix of various actions to provide the optimum multitiered approach to achieve the purpose of Operation Rio Grande. Under the No-Action Alternative, the actions proposed in the final EIS would not occur and present practices would continue. The No-Action Alternative would not increase or decrease the number of OBP agents in the sector but would tend to concentrate them along the river. Because of a Congressional Mandate (final EIS, Section 2.1), there E:\FR\FM\12MYN1.SGM 12MYN1 25106 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 91 / Thursday, May 12, 2005 / Notices will be an increase in the number of OBP agents in all areas of the country, with a concomitant increase in the number of vehicles. The following actions comprise the recommended plan for Operation Rio Grande at the six OBP stations in the McAllen Sector: Rio Grande City Station: (3.5 miles of permanent lighting and 6 boat ramps); McAllen Station (4 miles of permanent lighting, 6.4 miles of road improvement, and 2 boat ramps); Mercedes Station (11.1 miles of permanent lighting, 30 miles of road improvement, and 3 boat ramps); Harlingen Station (1.7 miles of permanent lighting (43 portable lights along 4.6 miles currently exist), 16 miles of road improvement, and 3 boat ramps); Brownsville Station (19 miles of road improvement, 5 boat ramps, 3.8 miles of fencing, and mowing (79 portable lights over a 13-mile distance and 30 permanent light poles along 1.5 miles currently exist)); and Port Isabel Station (16 miles of road improvement, 4 boat ramps, and 1.6 miles of fencing (64 portable lights along 11 miles currently exist)). The Harlingen, Brownsville, and Port Isabel Stations currently have portable lighting and the Brownsville Station currently has permanent lighting, as agreed to under the settlement of the lawsuit noted above. No new lighting is proposed for the Brownsville and Port Isabel Stations and only permanent lighting is proposed for the Harlingen Station. The current permanent/portable lighting at these three stations, however, was addressed in the final EIS. The proposed project is not expected to produce any significant long-term or cumulative adverse impacts on the human or natural environment, as defined in the Council of Environmental Quality Regulations (40 CFR 1508.27). As noted in detail in the final EIS, essentially no impacts, beneficial or adverse, to the physiography, geology, soils, climate, water resources, aquatic systems, wildlife, cultural resources, aesthetics, noise, or air quality of the area are anticipated and there were no indications of hazardous wastes. There will be some local, beneficial impacts to vegetation from reduced trampling of vegetation and littering by illegal entrants and drug traffickers and from road closures. The proposed lighting improvements could potentially have minor, local adverse impacts on migration, dispersal, and foraging activities of nocturnal species. Two endangered species could potentially be impacted by the proposed project, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and jaguarundi (Hepailurus yagouaroundi). These species are largely nocturnal and VerDate jul<14>2003 19:04 May 11, 2005 Jkt 205001 it is expected they would avoid illuminated areas. Extensive coordination with the FWS was conducted to determine the position and direction of the proposed lighting structures to minimize the illumination to brush and other types of screening cover. Proposed mitigation measures, such as road closures and habitat construction, would increase the amount of habitat for these species. Reducing illegal immigrant traffic in the McAllen Sector would further reduce impacts to the habitat. Therefore, both the final EIS and the FWS Biological Opinion conclude that no significant adverse impacts will accrue to these species. The only significant impacts would be socioeconomic. The socioeconomic impacts would be long-term and beneficial, both nationally and locally, primarily from the long-term reduction of flow of illegal drugs into the United States and the concomitant effects upon the Nation’s health and economy, drugrelated crimes, community cohesion, property values, and traditional family values. Residents of the border towns would benefit from increased security, a reduction in illegal drug-smuggling activities and the number of violent crimes, less damage to and loss of personal property, and less financial burden for entitlement programs. This would be accompanied by the concomitant benefits of reduced enforcement and insurance costs. Minor short-term local employment may be generated during the construction phase of the proposed action. I have reviewed and evaluated the documents concerning the proposed actions, views of other interested agencies and parties, and the various practical means to avoid or minimize environmental impacts. Based on these considerations, I conclude that all practical means to avoid or minimize environmental impacts have been incorporated into the preferred plan. I find the preferred plan to be economically justified, in compliance with environmental statutes, and in the public interest. Dated: April 15, 2005. Robert C. Bonner, Commissioner, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. [FR Doc. 05–9518 Filed 5–11–05; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4820–02–P PO 00000 Frm 00093 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT [Docket No. FR–4665–N–24] Conference Call Meeting of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee Office of the Assistant Secretary for Housing-Federal Housing Commissioner, HUD. ACTION: Notice of upcoming meeting via conference call. AGENCY: SUMMARY: This notice sets forth the schedule and proposed agenda of an upcoming meeting of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (the Committee) to be held via telephone conference. This meeting is open to the general public, which may participate by following the instructions below. DATE: The conference call meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 25, 2005, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. eastern time. ADDRESSES: Information concerning the conference call can be obtained from the Department’s Consensus Committee Administering Organization, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Interested parties can log onto NFPA’s Web site for instructions on how to participate, and for contact information for the conference call: http://www.nfpa.org/ categoryList.asp?categoryID=858. Alternately, interested parties may contact Jill McGovern of NFPA by phone at (617) 984–7404 (this is not a toll-free number) for conference call information. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: William W. Matchneer III, Administrator, Office of Manufactured Housing Programs, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regulatory Affairs and Manufactured Housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20410, telephone (202) 708–6409 (this is not a toll-free number). Persons who have difficulty hearing or speaking may access this number via TTY by calling the toll-free Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Notice of this meeting is provided in accordance with Sections 10(a) and (b) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.2) and 41 CFR 102–3.150. The Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee was established under Section 604(a)(3) of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 4503(a)(3). The Committee is charged with providing E:\FR\FM\12MYN1.SGM 12MYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 91 (Thursday, May 12, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 25104-25106]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-9518]


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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Bureau of Customs and Border Protection


Record of Decision for Customs and Border Protection's Office of 
Border Patrol Operation Rio Grande in the Office of Border Patrol 
McAllen Sector, Texas

AGENCY: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland 
Security.

ACTION: Record of decision general notice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This Record of Decision (ROD) document announces the final 
decision regarding the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 
Office of Border Patrol's Operation Rio Grande regarding potential 
environmental impacts resulting from Customs and Border Protection's 
(CBP), Office of Border Patrol (OBP), deployment of the lighting, 
roads, fences, mowing and boat ramp construction on the United States 
and Mexican border in the McAllen Sector of the OBP. The final EIS for 
Operation Rio Grande was made available for public review and was filed 
for public review with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which 
published it in the Federal Register on June 17, 2004. This ROD will be 
incorporated into the final EIS after publication. The Operation Rio 
Grande has five project actions covered by this EIS: Lighting 
installation (permanent and portable), road improvement, fencing 
construction, boat ramp construction, and mowing. These actions are 
intended to reduce the influx of illegal entrants and contraband into 
the McAllen Sector, increase arrest of those not deterred; increase 
safety for operations by OBP agents; decrease response time; and 
decrease the risk from drowning as victims attempt to cross the river 
and/or irrigation canals. Since September 11, 2001, terrorist 
activities have also become a major focus of the OBP. This EIS was 
prompted by a lawsuit brought by the Defenders of Wildlife because of 
the potential impact that OBP activities may have on the habitat of two 
endangered species in the area, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and 
jaguarundi (Hepailurus yagouaroundi) cats. The adjustments to lighting 
and other construction and mowing activities are incorporated into this 
ROD and were agreed to by the OBP and the Defenders of Wildlife in the 
settlement agreement for Defenders of Wildlife v. Meissner. The final 
EIS reflects this agreement and states that no significant impacts 
occur to geology, soils, climate, or air quality. Short-term 
disturbances may occur to water resources. Aquatic systems could be 
impacted; however, the effects will decrease over time. The 
socioeconomic impacts would primarily be beneficial. Lastly, some 
immediate and direct impacts to wildlife from construction activities 
would occur. Smaller and less mobile wildlife such as amphibians, 
reptiles, and small mammals may be adversely impacted by heavy 
machinery. The increased noise and activity levels during constructions 
could temporarily disturb breeding behavior of some wildlife inhabiting 
the areas adjacent to the project; however, little permanent damage to 
the populations of such organisms would result. The proposed lighting 
improvements could potentially impact migration, dispersal, and 
foraging activities of nocturnal species. Two endangered species, the 
ocelot and jaguarundi, could potentially be impacted by the proposed 
project. These species are largely nocturnal, and it is expected they 
would avoid illuminated areas. Extensive coordination with the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service was conducted to determine the position and 
direction of the proposed lighting structures to minimize the 
illumination to brush and other types of screening cover for these 
animals. Proposed mitigation measures such as road closures and habitat 
construction would increase the amount of habitat for these species. 
Reducing illegal immigrant traffic in the McAllen Sector would further 
reduce impacts to the habitat. Some, as yet, unidentified cultural 
resource sites may be impacted but mitigation will be provided through 
an initial assessment of the site, its anticipated severity, and 
proposals for the appropriate mitigation will be coordinated with the 
State Historic Preservation Officer.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bureau of Customs and Border 
Protection, Suite 3.4-D, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington DC 
20229, Attn: Mr. Kevin Feeney. Mr. Feeney is also available at (202) 
344-2336 or at Kevin.Feeney@dhs.gov. No public comment period is 
required for the ROD.

Record of Decision

Operation Rio Grande Starr, Hidalgo, and Cameron Counties, Texas

    I have reviewed the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for 
Operation Rio Grande, as well as correspondence received in response to

[[Page 25105]]

coordination and public review of the draft EIS.
    Operation Rio Grande is a strategy initiated in August 1997 by the 
Office of Border Patrol (OBP, formerly the U.S. Border Patrol (BP)), a 
Federal law enforcement branch of the Bureau of Customs and Border 
Protection (CBP, which includes functions transferred from the former 
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)), to aid in reducing 
illegal immigration and drug trafficking along the Rio Grande corridor 
of the McAllen Sector of the OBP. The purpose of the proposed project 
is to facilitate OBP missions to reduce or eliminate illegal drug 
activity and illegal entry along the southwestern border of the United 
States and to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into the United 
States.
    A draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for Operation Rio Grande was 
circulated for review and comment to Federal, State, and local agencies 
and to organizations, public groups, and the local public known to have 
an interest in the project in September 1998. Comments received on the 
draft EA were addressed, and the EA became final in August 1999. 
However, the final EA was never distributed, because the Defenders of 
Wildlife filed a lawsuit in August 1999 (Defenders of Wildlife v. 
Meissner D.D.C. case no. 1:99CV02262) against the former INS and BP 
challenging Operation Rio Grande. This case was settled on September 8, 
2000. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, OBP prepared an EIS that 
analyzed the potential beneficial and adverse impacts of Operation Rio 
Grande in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 
of 1969, as amended.
    Five project actions were covered by the EIS: Lighting 
installation, road improvement, fencing construction, boat ramp 
construction, and mowing. These actions are intended to reduce the 
influx of illegal immigration and drugs into the McAllen Sector, 
especially into towns; increase arrests of those not deterred; increase 
safety for operations by OBP agents; decrease response time; and 
decrease the risk from drowning as illegal entrants attempt to cross 
the river and/or irrigation canals. In light of the September 11, 2001, 
terrorist activities, securing the U.S. borders against illegal entry 
has become an increased focus of the OBP. The proposed project actions 
presented in the EIS are anticipated to significantly aid in securing 
the U.S. border against illegal entry of any kind.
    Two types of lighting are addressed in the final EIS: Permanent and 
portable. All portable lighting is currently in place; no more portable 
lighting is proposed in the final EIS. All proposed lighting is the 
permanent type. Proposed lighting locations were determined by the OBP 
agents in each McAllen Sector Station based on their knowledge of 
traffic in their station and on the site-specific needs of each station 
to deter or direct traffic in that station. Lighting acts as a 
deterrent to illegal immigration and smuggling, and as an aid to the 
OBP agents in capturing illegal entrants or smugglers after they have 
entered the United States. It also provides protection to illegal 
entrants from criminals on the United States side of the Rio Grande.
    Road improvement (adding calich[eacute] to the road surface) is 
necessary to allow the present and incoming agents to effectively 
perform the functions required of them. Additionally, upgrading the 
most crucial roads to all-weather roads would lead to a reduction in 
the number of roads needed. All road improvements addressed in the 
final EIS are on existing roads; no new construction is planned. 
Calich[eacute] is the most benign all-weather topping available, and 
its use is proposed for Operation Rio Grande road improvements.
    Border fences are located mostly in urbanized areas near the land 
Ports of Entry and are an effective deterrent to illegal drug and 
immigrant trafficking. Fencing also facilitates enforcement actions by 
hindering escape. Fencing has proved to be an effective measure for 
controlling the border.
    The McAllen Sector currently has a fleet of 18 boats and none will 
be added to this fleet specifically because of Operation Rio Grande. 
The boats are used for surveillance, observation, and information 
gathering and, therefore, are operated as inconspicuously as possible. 
The boats are not used for pursuit since they are on international 
waters. Boat ramps are utilized along the Rio Grande and other large 
surface-water bodies by OBP agents and other law enforcement officers 
to deter and/or apprehend those involved in illegal activities. These 
illegal activities include drug smuggling and transport of illegal 
immigrants by boat, as well as persons involved in smuggling or trying 
to enter the United States illegally by wading or swimming.
    Currently, under a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. 
International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) and U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (FWS), the USIBWC mows certain areas between the 
USIBWC levee and the Rio Grande once a year between July and October. 
Despite the annual mowing, some of the herbaceous vegetation grows tall 
enough to hinder the efforts of the OBP to apprehend illegal entrants 
and drug traffickers. Increased mowing would make it easier and safer 
for OBP agents to apprehend these persons.
    The application of Operation Rio Grande dictates that a viable 
alternative be one that meets the purpose and need to develop a border 
security system that also meets the mission of the OBP. Two 
alternatives, the No-Action Alternative and the Preferred Alternative, 
were carried forward throughout the final EIS since all other 
alternatives (more lighting with larger coverage area, including some 
in National Wildlife Refuges and inside the USIBWC flood control levee; 
different placement and aiming of the lighting; additional boat ramps; 
different boat ramp locations; additional mowings; extensive fencing) 
were eliminated from consideration through a dynamic application of the 
intent of the NEPA process using interagency coordination and 
cooperation (final EIS, Section 2.3). Two public meetings for Operation 
Rio Grande were held in April 2001. The purpose of the meetings was to 
get public input on what issues and alternatives should be addressed in 
the EIS. The public's view, and concerns were used in the preparation 
of the EIS. One or more copies of the draft EIS (DEIS) were sent to 
State and Federal resource agencies, and the general public on February 
20, 2003, requesting comments by April 14, 2003. However, a public 
notice soliciting comments on the DEIS was not published in the Federal 
Register until March 21, 2003, and the comment period was extended by 
letter and newspaper notice until May 5, 2003. Those comments are 
included in the final EIS in Appendix D.
    The purpose of the actions, as noted in Section 1.2 of the final 
EIS, is to increase the efficiency and safety of the OBP agents and the 
safety of U.S. citizens and illegal entrants in the McAllen Sector 
while the OBP agents fulfill their obligations under U.S. laws and 
directives. It was noted in the final EIS that the number of OBP agents 
is not determined by Operation Rio Grande, although the method in which 
they are used is. The recommended plan is a mix of various actions to 
provide the optimum multitiered approach to achieve the purpose of 
Operation Rio Grande.
    Under the No-Action Alternative, the actions proposed in the final 
EIS would not occur and present practices would continue. The No-Action 
Alternative would not increase or decrease the number of OBP agents in 
the sector but would tend to concentrate them along the river. Because 
of a Congressional Mandate (final EIS, Section 2.1), there

[[Page 25106]]

will be an increase in the number of OBP agents in all areas of the 
country, with a concomitant increase in the number of vehicles.
    The following actions comprise the recommended plan for Operation 
Rio Grande at the six OBP stations in the McAllen Sector:
    Rio Grande City Station: (3.5 miles of permanent lighting and 6 
boat ramps); McAllen Station (4 miles of permanent lighting, 6.4 miles 
of road improvement, and 2 boat ramps); Mercedes Station (11.1 miles of 
permanent lighting, 30 miles of road improvement, and 3 boat ramps); 
Harlingen Station (1.7 miles of permanent lighting (43 portable lights 
along 4.6 miles currently exist), 16 miles of road improvement, and 3 
boat ramps); Brownsville Station (19 miles of road improvement, 5 boat 
ramps, 3.8 miles of fencing, and mowing (79 portable lights over a 13-
mile distance and 30 permanent light poles along 1.5 miles currently 
exist)); and Port Isabel Station (16 miles of road improvement, 4 boat 
ramps, and 1.6 miles of fencing (64 portable lights along 11 miles 
currently exist)). The Harlingen, Brownsville, and Port Isabel Stations 
currently have portable lighting and the Brownsville Station currently 
has permanent lighting, as agreed to under the settlement of the 
lawsuit noted above. No new lighting is proposed for the Brownsville 
and Port Isabel Stations and only permanent lighting is proposed for 
the Harlingen Station. The current permanent/portable lighting at these 
three stations, however, was addressed in the final EIS.
    The proposed project is not expected to produce any significant 
long-term or cumulative adverse impacts on the human or natural 
environment, as defined in the Council of Environmental Quality 
Regulations (40 CFR 1508.27). As noted in detail in the final EIS, 
essentially no impacts, beneficial or adverse, to the physiography, 
geology, soils, climate, water resources, aquatic systems, wildlife, 
cultural resources, aesthetics, noise, or air quality of the area are 
anticipated and there were no indications of hazardous wastes. There 
will be some local, beneficial impacts to vegetation from reduced 
trampling of vegetation and littering by illegal entrants and drug 
traffickers and from road closures. The proposed lighting improvements 
could potentially have minor, local adverse impacts on migration, 
dispersal, and foraging activities of nocturnal species. Two endangered 
species could potentially be impacted by the proposed project, the 
ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and jaguarundi (Hepailurus yagouaroundi). 
These species are largely nocturnal and it is expected they would avoid 
illuminated areas. Extensive coordination with the FWS was conducted to 
determine the position and direction of the proposed lighting 
structures to minimize the illumination to brush and other types of 
screening cover. Proposed mitigation measures, such as road closures 
and habitat construction, would increase the amount of habitat for 
these species. Reducing illegal immigrant traffic in the McAllen Sector 
would further reduce impacts to the habitat. Therefore, both the final 
EIS and the FWS Biological Opinion conclude that no significant adverse 
impacts will accrue to these species.
    The only significant impacts would be socioeconomic. The 
socioeconomic impacts would be long-term and beneficial, both 
nationally and locally, primarily from the long-term reduction of flow 
of illegal drugs into the United States and the concomitant effects 
upon the Nation's health and economy, drug-related crimes, community 
cohesion, property values, and traditional family values. Residents of 
the border towns would benefit from increased security, a reduction in 
illegal drug-smuggling activities and the number of violent crimes, 
less damage to and loss of personal property, and less financial burden 
for entitlement programs. This would be accompanied by the concomitant 
benefits of reduced enforcement and insurance costs. Minor short-term 
local employment may be generated during the construction phase of the 
proposed action.
    I have reviewed and evaluated the documents concerning the proposed 
actions, views of other interested agencies and parties, and the 
various practical means to avoid or minimize environmental impacts. 
Based on these considerations, I conclude that all practical means to 
avoid or minimize environmental impacts have been incorporated into the 
preferred plan. I find the preferred plan to be economically justified, 
in compliance with environmental statutes, and in the public interest.

    Dated: April 15, 2005.
Robert C. Bonner,
Commissioner, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.
[FR Doc. 05-9518 Filed 5-11-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4820-02-P