Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Vernal Pool Habitat Conservation Plan for the City of San Diego, CA, 78942-78944 [2011-32494]

Download as PDF 78942 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 244 / Tuesday, December 20, 2011 / Notices to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Dated: October 28, 2011. Richard R. Hannan, Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon. [FR Doc. 2011–32589 Filed 12–19–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R8–ES–2011–N243; FF08E00000– FXES11120800000F2–112] Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Vernal Pool Habitat Conservation Plan for the City of San Diego, CA Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of intent and announcement of a public meeting; request for comments. AGENCY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended, for the proposed Vernal Pool Habitat Conservation Plan (VPHCP) under development by the City of San Diego (City). The draft EIS will evaluate the impacts of several alternatives related to the VPHCP being prepared by the City in support of the City’s anticipated application for an Endangered Species Act (ESA) permit for incidental take of seven federally listed vernal pool species, from activities associated with urban development activities. We also announce plans for a public scoping meeting and the opening of a public comment period. 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. DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by February 16th, 2012. For more information, see ‘‘Public Comments’’ and ‘‘Reasonable Accommodation’’ under the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section. ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, please use one of the following methods, and note that your information request or comment is in reference to the City of San Diego Vernal Pool HCP: jlentini on DSK4TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:28 Dec 19, 2011 Jkt 226001 • Fax: Attn: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, (760) 431–5902. • U.S. Mail: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92011. • In-Person Drop-off: You may drop off comments during regular business hours at the above address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen Goebel, Assistant Field Supervisor, by phone at (760) 431–9440, or by U.S. mail at the above address; or Jeanne Krosch, Senior Planner, City of San Diego, by phone at (619) 236–7225. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We publish this notice under 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 1506.6, as well as in compliance with section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; ESA). We intend to prepare a draft environmental impact statement to evaluate the impacts of several alternatives related to the potential issuance of an incidental take permit (ITP) to the City of San Diego, as well as impacts from implementation of the supporting habitat conservation plan. The EIS will be a joint document with an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by the City under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The City proposes to develop a Vernal Pool HCP as part of their application for an ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. The proposed VPHCP 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 VPHCP, and the habitats upon which they depend, resulting from residential, commercial, and other development activities within the proposed plan area. In addition to this notice, the City has publicly released a CEQA notice of preparation for its EIR via State Clearinghouse and local media. Please see http://www.sandiego.gov/ development-services/industry/pdf/ infobulletin/ib401.pdf for more information on the CEQA process. The proposed VPHCP would establish the structure to integrate development and vernal pool conservation in the City. The proposed VPHCP would serve as a multiple-species HCP for the City in its application for an ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. If the application is approved by the Service, the City PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 would obtain authorization for the incidental take of certain threatened and endangered animal species (‘‘covered species’’). If the Federal permit is issued, the City could extend the permit authorization to proponents of development projects under the City’s jurisdiction. Background Section 9 of the ESA prohibits taking of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. Under the ESA, the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. The term ‘‘harm’’ is defined in the regulations as including significant habitat modification or degradation that results in death or injury to listed wildlife species by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The term ‘‘harass’’ is defined in the regulations as to carry out actions that create the likelihood of injury to listed wildlife by annoying it 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). However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue permits that allow the take of federally listed wildlife species, provided that the take is incidental to, but not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened wildlife species are 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, respectively. The ESA’s take prohibitions do not apply to federally listed plants. However, other provisions of the Act prohibit the removal or destruction of plants on non-federal lands in violation of State law. Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA contains provisions for issuing incidental take permits to non-Federal entities for the take of endangered and threatened wildlife 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 plan 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. E:\FR\FM\20DEN1.SGM 20DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 244 / Tuesday, December 20, 2011 / Notices Thus, the purpose of issuing an ITP to the City would be to allow the City, under its local authority, to authorize development while conserving the covered species and their habitats. Implementation of a vernal pool species habitat conservation plan, rather than a species-by-species or project-by-project approach, is intended to maximize the benefits of conservation measures for covered species and eliminate expensive and time-consuming efforts associated with processing individual ITPs for each project within the City’s proposed plan area. The Service expects that the City will request ITP coverage for a period of 50 years. project-specific basis. Although future activities by the City or a private applicant would be similar to those covered by the VPHCP, not all activities would necessitate an incidental take permit or consultation with the Service. Thus, under the no-action alternative, the City and various project proponents would likely have to file numerous separate section 10(a)(1)(B) permit applications over the 50-year project period. This activity-by-activity approach would be more timeconsuming and less efficient than authorizing activities under an umbrella incidental take permit, and could result in a fragmented mitigation approach. Project Area The proposed VPHCP Planning Area covers approximately 206,124 acres of land in the City’s jurisdiction, including City-owned lands in the unincorporated areas of Otay Lakes and Marron Valley, where development potentially may occur. The proposed VPHCP would cover non-Federal lands in the Planning Area. To facilitate timely and environmentally responsible development, the proposed VPHCP may focus on specific areas for development, such as Otay Mesa, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, and Del Mar Mesa. Proposed Alternative The proposed action is the issuance of an ITP to the City of San Diego covering impacts to seven vernal pool species resulting from development activities authorized by the City within the proposed Planning Area for a period of 50 years. The purpose of the Vernal Pool HCP would be to contribute to the conservation of the covered species while streamlining endangered species permitting for development projects. The Vernal Pool HCP, which must meet the requirements of section 10(a)(2)(A) of the ESA, would be developed and implemented by the City through its local regulatory and land use authorities. This alternative would allow for a comprehensive mitigation approach for unavoidable impacts and reduce permit processing times and efforts for the City and the Service. Potential impacts to covered species would be addressed through a conservation program that includes avoidance, minimization, mitigation, preservation, and restoration and enhancement of habitat for covered species by multiple components, such as reserve design and assembly processes, protection and management elements, funding assurances, monitoring, and adaptive management within the VPHCP planning area. The planning goals of the Vernal Pool HCP are anticipated to include the following: • Provide for long-term conservation and management of Covered Species within the VPHCP area; • Preserve, restore, and enhance vernal pool ecosystems that support Covered Species within the VPHCP area; • Build on the City’s general plans; • Further identify the most appropriate locations within the VPHCP area for development projects, taking into account potential impacts to threatened and endangered species and their vernal pool habitat; jlentini on DSK4TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Alternatives in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement The proposed action presented in the draft EIS will be compared to the noaction alternative. The no-action alternative represents estimated future conditions assuming an ITP is not issued, to which the proposed action’s estimated future conditions can be compared. Other alternatives, including their potential impacts, will also be addressed in the draft EIS. No-Action Alternative Because future development activities are vital for the City, these activities would likely continue regardless of whether the proposed 10(a)(1)(B) ITP is issued. Where a specific project would result in potential impacts to federally protected species within the proposed permit area that could not be avoided and a federal permit or federal funding is involved, i.e., there is a federal nexus for the project, the project proponent would address impacts in accordance with the an individual formal or informal consultation under Section 7 of the Act between the Federal authorizing agency and the Service. If no federal nexus exists for a proposed project that is likely to result in take of a listed vernal pool animal species, the project proponent would likely seek an individual section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP on a VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:28 Dec 19, 2011 Jkt 226001 PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 78943 • Provide a means to implement covered activities in a manner that complies with the ESA, NEPA, CEQA, and other relevant laws; • Provide a basis for the issuance of take authorizations allowing the lawful take of covered species incidental to covered activities; • Provide a comprehensive means to coordinate and standardize mitigation and compensation requirements for covered activities within the plan area; • Provide a framework for a more efficient process by which proposed development projects with the plan area may obtain regulatory authorizations, and which results in greater conservation values than would a project-by-project, species-by-species review; and • Identify and incorporate climate change adaptation research, management objectives, and policies into the final plan document. More information on the proposed VPHCP is available on the Internet at http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/ mscp/. Covered Activities The covered activities under the VPHCP are expected to include residential, commercial, and industrial development; airports; roads; utilities; trails; and vernal pool restoration and enhancement. Covered Species We anticipate that the following federally listed endangered wildlife species will be included as covered species in the City of San Diego’s proposed VPHCP: the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis) and the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus woottonii). Take of federally listed plant species is not prohibited under the ESA, and authorization under an ESA ITP is not required. Section 9 of ESA does, however, prohibit the removal or malicious destruction of federally listed plants from areas under Federal jurisdiction and the removal or destruction of such plants in knowing violation of State law. In addition, section 7(a)(2) of the ESA prohibits Federal agencies from jeopardizing the continued existence of any listed plant or animal species, or destroying or adversely modifying the critical habitat of such species. The following federally listed plant species are anticipated to be included in the VPHCP in recognition of the conservation benefits to be provided for them under the plan and to be listed on the ITP for purposes of receiving mitigation assurances: The threatened spreading navarretia (Navarretia E:\FR\FM\20DEN1.SGM 20DEN1 78944 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 244 / Tuesday, December 20, 2011 / Notices fossalis), the endangered San Diego button celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii), the endangered San Diego mesa mint (Pogogyne abramsii), the endangered California Orcutt grass (Orcuttia californica), and the endangered Otay mesa mint (Pogogyne nudiscula). Conservation Alternative An expanded conservation alternative that would conserve additional vernal pool resources and provide increased opportunities for restoration and enhancement of vernal pool habitat will also be considered in the draft EIS. jlentini on DSK4TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 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 will be the basis for the impact evaluation for each covered species and the range of alternatives to be addressed. The draft EIS is expected to provide biological descriptions of the affected species and habitats, as well as the effects of the alternatives on other resources, such as vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, geology and soils, air quality, water resources, water quality, cultural resources, 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 and the City’s permit application, which will include the proposed HCP. The draft EIS and proposed HCP are expected to be completed and available to the public in late summer 2012. 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. We will consider these comments in developing a draft EIS and in the development of a HCP and ITP. 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 planning area and their possible impacts on the species; 5. The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, historic VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:28 Dec 19, 2011 Jkt 226001 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. Identification of any other alternatives to the proposed action that should be analyzed in the draft EIS. 7. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be considered in the draft EIS. You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. Comments can also be submitted to the City in response to their notice of EIR preparation under CEQA at DSDEAS@sandiego.gov, and comments will also be included as an appendix to the draft EIR/EIS. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we use in preparing the draft EIS, 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. Authority We provide this notice under section 10 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and by NEPA Regulations (40 CFR 1501.7, 40 CFR 1506.6, and 1508.22). Paul McKim, Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento, California. [FR Doc. 2011–32494 Filed 12–19–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4510–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR U.S. Geological Survey Announcement of National Geospatial Advisory Committee Meeting U.S. Geological Survey, Interior. ACTION: Notice of meeting. AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) will meet on January 12, 2012, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST. The meeting will be held via Web conference and teleconference. The NGAC, which is composed of representatives from governmental, private sector, non-profit, and academic organizations, has been established to advise the Chair of the Federal Geographic Data Committee on management of Federal geospatial programs, the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, and the implementation of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A–16. Topics to be addressed at the meeting include: —Recent FGDC Activities. —Innovative Strategies for Geospatial Programs and Partnerships White Paper. —Geospatial Workforce Development White Paper. —Geospatial Platform Activities. Members of the public who wish to attend the meeting must register in advance. Please register by contacting Arista Maher at the Federal Geographic Data Committee (703) 648–6283, amaher@fgdc.gov). Meeting registrations are due by January 6, 2012. Meeting information (Web conference and teleconference instructions) will be provided to registrants prior to the meeting. While the meeting will be open to the public, attendance may be limited due to Web conference and teleconference capacity. The meeting will include an opportunity for public comment. Attendees wishing to provide public comment should register by January 6. Please register by contacting Arista Maher at the Federal Geographic Data Committee (703) 648–6283, amaher@fgdc.gov). Comments may also be submitted to the NGAC in writing. DATES: The meeting will be held on January 12, 2012, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Mahoney, U.S. Geological Survey (206) 220–4621). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Meetings of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee are open to the public. Additional information about the NGAC and the meeting are available at www.fgdc.gov/ngac. SUMMARY: Dated: Dceember 14, 2011. Ivan DeLoatch, Executive Director, Federal Geographic Data Committee. [FR Doc. 2011–32504 Filed 12–19–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4311–AM–P E:\FR\FM\20DEN1.SGM 20DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 244 (Tuesday, December 20, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 78942-78944]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-32494]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2011-N243; FF08E00000-FXES11120800000F2-112]


Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Vernal Pool 
Habitat Conservation Plan for the City of San Diego, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent and announcement of a public meeting; request 
for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to prepare 
an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended, for the proposed 
Vernal Pool Habitat Conservation Plan (VPHCP) under development by the 
City of San Diego (City). The draft EIS will evaluate the impacts of 
several alternatives related to the VPHCP being prepared by the City in 
support of the City's anticipated application for an Endangered Species 
Act (ESA) permit for incidental take of seven federally listed vernal 
pool species, from activities associated with urban development 
activities. We also announce plans for a public scoping meeting and the 
opening of a public comment period. 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.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
February 16th, 2012.
    For more information, see ``Public Comments'' and ``Reasonable 
Accommodation'' under the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section.

ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, 
please use one of the following methods, and note that your information 
request or comment is in reference to the City of San Diego Vernal Pool 
HCP:
     Fax: Attn: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, (760) 431-5902.
     U.S. Mail: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and 
Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6010 Hidden Valley 
Road, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92011.
     In-Person Drop-off: You may drop off comments during 
regular business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen Goebel, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, by phone at (760) 431-9440, or by U.S. mail at the above 
address; or Jeanne Krosch, Senior Planner, City of San Diego, by phone 
at (619) 236-7225.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We publish this notice under 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 1506.6, as well as in compliance with 
section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; 
ESA). We intend to prepare a draft environmental impact statement to 
evaluate the impacts of several alternatives related to the potential 
issuance of an incidental take permit (ITP) to the City of San Diego, 
as well as impacts from implementation of the supporting habitat 
conservation plan. The EIS will be a joint document with an 
environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by the City under the 
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
    The City proposes to develop a Vernal Pool HCP as part of their 
application for an ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. The 
proposed VPHCP 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 VPHCP, and the 
habitats upon which they depend, resulting from residential, 
commercial, and other development activities within the proposed plan 
area.
    In addition to this notice, the City has publicly released a CEQA 
notice of preparation for its EIR via State Clearinghouse and local 
media. Please see http://www.sandiego.gov/development-services/industry/pdf/infobulletin/ib401.pdf for more information on the CEQA 
process.
    The proposed VPHCP would establish the structure to integrate 
development and vernal pool conservation in the City.
    The proposed VPHCP would serve as a multiple-species HCP for the 
City in its application for an ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
ESA. If the application is approved by the Service, the City would 
obtain authorization for the incidental take of certain threatened and 
endangered animal species (``covered species''). If the Federal permit 
is issued, the City could extend the permit authorization to proponents 
of development projects under the City's jurisdiction.

Background

    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits taking of fish and wildlife species 
listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. Under 
the ESA, the term ``take'' means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any 
such conduct. The term ``harm'' is defined in the regulations as 
including significant habitat modification or degradation that results 
in death or injury to listed wildlife species by significantly 
impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, 
or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The term ``harass'' is defined in the 
regulations as to carry out actions that create the likelihood of 
injury to listed wildlife by annoying it 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).
    However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue 
permits that allow the take of federally listed wildlife species, 
provided that the take is incidental to, but not the purpose of, an 
otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for endangered 
and threatened wildlife species are 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, 
respectively. The ESA's take prohibitions do not apply to federally 
listed plants. However, other provisions of the Act prohibit the 
removal or destruction of plants on non-federal lands in violation of 
State law.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA contains provisions for issuing 
incidental take permits to non-Federal entities for the take of 
endangered and threatened wildlife 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 plan 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.

[[Page 78943]]

    Thus, the purpose of issuing an ITP to the City would be to allow 
the City, under its local authority, to authorize development while 
conserving the covered species and their habitats. Implementation of a 
vernal pool species habitat conservation plan, rather than a species-
by-species or project-by-project approach, is intended to maximize the 
benefits of conservation measures for covered species and eliminate 
expensive and time-consuming efforts associated with processing 
individual ITPs for each project within the City's proposed plan area. 
The Service expects that the City will request ITP coverage for a 
period of 50 years.

Project Area

    The proposed VPHCP Planning Area covers approximately 206,124 acres 
of land in the City's jurisdiction, including City-owned lands in the 
unincorporated areas of Otay Lakes and Marron Valley, where development 
potentially may occur. The proposed VPHCP would cover non-Federal lands 
in the Planning Area. To facilitate timely and environmentally 
responsible development, the proposed VPHCP may focus on specific areas 
for development, such as Otay Mesa, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, and Del Mar 
Mesa.

Alternatives in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

    The proposed action presented in the draft EIS will be compared to 
the no-action alternative. The no-action alternative represents 
estimated future conditions assuming an ITP is not issued, to which the 
proposed action's estimated future conditions can be compared. Other 
alternatives, including their potential impacts, will also be addressed 
in the draft EIS.

No-Action Alternative

    Because future development activities are vital for the City, these 
activities would likely continue regardless of whether the proposed 
10(a)(1)(B) ITP is issued. Where a specific project would result in 
potential impacts to federally protected species within the proposed 
permit area that could not be avoided and a federal permit or federal 
funding is involved, i.e., there is a federal nexus for the project, 
the project proponent would address impacts in accordance with the an 
individual formal or informal consultation under Section 7 of the Act 
between the Federal authorizing agency and the Service. If no federal 
nexus exists for a proposed project that is likely to result in take of 
a listed vernal pool animal species, the project proponent would likely 
seek an individual section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP on a project-specific basis. 
Although future activities by the City or a private applicant would be 
similar to those covered by the VPHCP, not all activities would 
necessitate an incidental take permit or consultation with the Service. 
Thus, under the no-action alternative, the City and various project 
proponents would likely have to file numerous separate section 
10(a)(1)(B) permit applications over the 50-year project period. This 
activity-by-activity approach would be more time-consuming and less 
efficient than authorizing activities under an umbrella incidental take 
permit, and could result in a fragmented mitigation approach.

Proposed Alternative

    The proposed action is the issuance of an ITP to the City of San 
Diego covering impacts to seven vernal pool species resulting from 
development activities authorized by the City within the proposed 
Planning Area for a period of 50 years. The purpose of the Vernal Pool 
HCP would be to contribute to the conservation of the covered species 
while streamlining endangered species permitting for development 
projects. The Vernal Pool HCP, which must meet the requirements of 
section 10(a)(2)(A) of the ESA, would be developed and implemented by 
the City through its local regulatory and land use authorities. This 
alternative would allow for a comprehensive mitigation approach for 
unavoidable impacts and reduce permit processing times and efforts for 
the City and the Service.
    Potential impacts to covered species would be addressed through a 
conservation program that includes avoidance, minimization, mitigation, 
preservation, and restoration and enhancement of habitat for covered 
species by multiple components, such as reserve design and assembly 
processes, protection and management elements, funding assurances, 
monitoring, and adaptive management within the VPHCP planning area.
    The planning goals of the Vernal Pool HCP are anticipated to 
include the following:
     Provide for long-term conservation and management of 
Covered Species within the VPHCP area;
     Preserve, restore, and enhance vernal pool ecosystems that 
support Covered Species within the VPHCP area;
     Build on the City's general plans;
     Further identify the most appropriate locations within the 
VPHCP area for development projects, taking into account potential 
impacts to threatened and endangered species and their vernal pool 
habitat;
     Provide a means to implement covered activities in a 
manner that complies with the ESA, NEPA, CEQA, and other relevant laws;
     Provide a basis for the issuance of take authorizations 
allowing the lawful take of covered species incidental to covered 
activities;
     Provide a comprehensive means to coordinate and 
standardize mitigation and compensation requirements for covered 
activities within the plan area;
     Provide a framework for a more efficient process by which 
proposed development projects with the plan area may obtain regulatory 
authorizations, and which results in greater conservation values than 
would a project-by-project, species-by-species review; and
     Identify and incorporate climate change adaptation 
research, management objectives, and policies into the final plan 
document.
    More information on the proposed VPHCP is available on the Internet 
at http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/mscp/.

Covered Activities

    The covered activities under the VPHCP are expected to include 
residential, commercial, and industrial development; airports; roads; 
utilities; trails; and vernal pool restoration and enhancement.

Covered Species

    We anticipate that the following federally listed endangered 
wildlife species will be included as covered species in the City of San 
Diego's proposed VPHCP: the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta 
sandiegonensis) and the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus 
woottonii). Take of federally listed plant species is not prohibited 
under the ESA, and authorization under an ESA ITP is not required. 
Section 9 of ESA does, however, prohibit the removal or malicious 
destruction of federally listed plants from areas under Federal 
jurisdiction and the removal or destruction of such plants in knowing 
violation of State law. In addition, section 7(a)(2) of the ESA 
prohibits Federal agencies from jeopardizing the continued existence of 
any listed plant or animal species, or destroying or adversely 
modifying the critical habitat of such species. The following federally 
listed plant species are anticipated to be included in the VPHCP in 
recognition of the conservation benefits to be provided for them under 
the plan and to be listed on the ITP for purposes of receiving 
mitigation assurances: The threatened spreading navarretia (Navarretia

[[Page 78944]]

fossalis), the endangered San Diego button celery (Eryngium aristulatum 
var. parishii), the endangered San Diego mesa mint (Pogogyne abramsii), 
the endangered California Orcutt grass (Orcuttia californica), and the 
endangered Otay mesa mint (Pogogyne nudiscula).

Conservation Alternative

    An expanded conservation alternative that would conserve additional 
vernal pool resources and provide increased opportunities for 
restoration and enhancement of vernal pool habitat will also be 
considered in the draft EIS.

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 will be the basis for the 
impact evaluation for each covered species and the range of 
alternatives to be addressed. The draft EIS is expected to provide 
biological descriptions of the affected species and habitats, as well 
as the effects of the alternatives on other resources, such as 
vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, geology and soils, air quality, water 
resources, water quality, cultural resources, 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 and the City's permit application, which will include the proposed 
HCP. The draft EIS and proposed HCP are expected to be completed and 
available to the public in late summer 2012.

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. We will consider these comments in developing a draft EIS and 
in the development of a HCP and ITP. 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 planning 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. Identification of any other alternatives to the proposed action 
that should be analyzed in the draft EIS.
    7. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered in the draft EIS.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in the ADDRESSES section.
    Comments can also be submitted to the City in response to their 
notice of EIR preparation under CEQA at DSDEAS@sandiego.gov, and 
comments will also be included as an appendix to the draft EIR/EIS.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we use in preparing the draft EIS, 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.

Authority

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

Paul McKim,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Sacramento, California.
 [FR Doc. 2011-32494 Filed 12-19-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-55-P