Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the State-Route 99/Cartmill Avenue Interchange Improvements Project, City of Tulare, Tulare County, CA, 74504-74506 [2012-30186]

Download as PDF 74504 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 241 / Friday, December 14, 2012 / Notices Dated: December 10, 2012 Alexandra Pitts, Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, California. [FR Doc. 2012–30182 Filed 12–13–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R8–ES–2012–N204; FF08E00000– FXES11120800000F2–123–F2] Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the State-Route 99/Cartmill Avenue Interchange Improvements Project, City of Tulare, Tulare County, CA AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. Notice of availability; request for comment. ACTION: SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have received an application from the City of Tulare, Tulare County, California (applicant), for a 5-year incidental take permit for two species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The application addresses the potential for ‘‘take’’ of two listed animals, the vernal pool fairy shrimp and the San Joaquin kit fox. The applicant would implement a conservation strategy program to avoid, minimize, and mitigate effects of the project’s covered activities, as described in the applicant’s low-effect habitat conservation plan (HCP). We request comments on the applicant’s application and plan, and our preliminary determination that the plan qualifies as a ‘‘low-effect’’ habitat conservation plan, eligible for a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). We discuss our basis for this determination in our environmental action statement (EAS), also available for public review. DATES: We must receive written comments on or before January 14, 2013. 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 Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the State Route 99/Cartmill Avenue Interchange Improvements Project, City of Tulare, Tulare County, California: • U.S. Mail: Nina Bicknese, Conservation Planning Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with ADDRESSES: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:41 Dec 13, 2012 Jkt 229001 Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W–2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. • In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (916) 414–6600 to make an appointment during regular business hours to drop off comments or view received comments at the address shown above. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation Planning Division, or Eric Tattersall, Deputy Assistant Field Supervisor, at the address shown above 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: Availability of Documents You may obtain copies of the permit application, HCP, and EAS from the individuals in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Copies of these documents are also available for public inspection, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Public Availability of Comments Before including your address, phone number, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—might 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. Background Information Section 9 of the Act prohibits taking of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. Under the Act, 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 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). 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). However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue permits that allow the take of federally PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 listed species, provided that the take that occurs is incidental to, but not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened species are 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. The applicant seeks an incidental take permit for proposed covered activities within a 219-acre permit area surrounding the intersection of State Route 99 and Cartmill Avenue within the City of Tulare, Tulare County, California. The HCP does not include any unlisted animal species or unlisted plant species. The following two federally listed species will be included as covered species in the applicant’s proposed HCP: • San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) (endangered) • Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi) (threatened) For these covered species, the applicants would seek incidental take authorization. All species included in the incidental take permit would receive assurances under our ‘‘No Surprises’’ regulations (50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)). Activities proposed for coverage under the proposed incidental take permit (covered-activities) would be otherwise lawful activities that could occur consistent with the HCP, to include, but not be limited to: • Widen and improve sections of existing roadway. • Remove the existing Cartmill Avenue overpass, remove associated roadways and associated highway ramps, and dispose of those materials. • Store equipment and supplies in a designated staging area. • Construct a new Cartmill Avenue overpass, including a temporary structure (falsework). Construct new roadways and new highway ramps associated with the new overpass. E:\FR\FM\14DEN1.SGM 14DEN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 241 / Friday, December 14, 2012 / Notices • Excavate seven new stormwater detention basins and dispose of excavated soil. • Remove existing vegetation, including plant roots. • Grade and re-contour ground, compact soil, and install road surfaces (paving). • Install erosion control structures (such as silt fencing and barriers). • Operate heavy equipment (including, but not limited to, pneumatic tools, scrapers, bulldozers, backhoes, heavy trucks, cement trucks, compactors, and water trucks. • Control dust by watering soil surfaces. • Excavate trenches to install traffic signals, lighting conduit, streetlights, and similar facilities. • Sow native-plant species or other groundcover to prevent erosion and to restore areas disturbed by construction activities. • Maintain and operate the completed project, including maintenance watering of any landscaping vegetation, future mowing of roadside vegetation, and future maintenance repairs to the constructed facilities. The applicant’s proposed project would improve the State Route 99/ Cartmill Avenue Interchange (Interchange) and correct nonstandard features of the existing Cartmill Avenue overcrossing. The new Cartmill Avenue overpass would provide 16.5 feet of vertical clearance over State Route 99, compared to the existing 15 feet, and provide space to accommodate any future widening of State Route 99. The approximately 2,700-foot long overpasssection of Cartmill Avenue would be widened from two lanes (approximately 38-feet wide) to become a six-lane divided arterial (approximately 128-feet wide). The new Cartmill Avenue overpass would transition from six lanes to the existing two lanes in a 400-foot section west of M Street, and in a 1,300foot section east of the new Akers Street intersection/Tulare Irrigation District Canal crossing. The existing M Street intersection with Cartmill Avenue would be improved, and a portion of M Street would be reconstructed. An existing highway ramp in the southwest quadrant of the Interchange would be removed, realigned, and replaced with a new ramp. Three additional highway ramps would be constructed in the other Interchange quadrants. The existing frontage road (Road 100) in the northeast quadrant of the Interchange would be removed, and a new roadway (Akers Street) would be constructed in an area approximately 330 feet to the east of the existing road. Additional 12inch-deep water detention basins would VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:41 Dec 13, 2012 Jkt 229001 be excavated in each quadrant of the Interchange. The entire project would be constructed in a single phase. The applicant proposes to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the effects to the covered species associated with the covered activities by fully implementing the conservation strategy described in the HCP. Avoidance and minimization measures will include compliance with our January 2011 document ‘‘U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Standard Recommendations for Protection of the Endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox Prior to or During Ground Disturbance.’’ Other avoidance and minimization measures include but are not limited to: • Install barrier fencing around the entire work area. • Install barrier fences around seasonal pools and other sensitive areas. • Install of erosion control measures around seasonal pools. • Implement actions to avoid migratory birds and active nests. • Conduct environmental awareness training for onsite personnel. • Conduct preconstruction surveys for kit fox and kit fox dens. • Employ a qualified biological monitor to be on site during all initial ground-disturbing construction activities, to revisit the construction site at least weekly and assure that all avoidance and minimization measures are in good working order, and to prepare monitoring reports. • The biological monitor will have the authority to stop work, if deemed necessary. The applicant proposes to compensate for covered-species effects that cannot be avoided by purchasing preservation credits at the Service-approved conservation banks discussed in the HCP. Alternatives Our proposed action is approving the applicant’s HCP and issuing an incidental take permit for the applicant’s covered activities. As required by the Act, the applicant’s HCP considers alternatives to the take expected under the proposed action. The HCP considers the environmental consequences of one alternative to the proposed action, the No-Action Alternative. Under the No-Action Alternative, we would not issue a permit; the applicant would not improve the State Route 99/Cartmill Avenue Interchange and would not correct nonstandard features of the existing Cartmill Avenue overcrossing; project effects on covered-species habitat would not occur; and the applicant would not implement proposed mitigation measures. While PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 74505 this No-Action Alternative would avoid take of covered-species, it is considered infeasible because the applicant could not complete necessary traffic safety improvements or correct existing circulation, access, and capacity problems at the existing interchange. Under the Proposed-Action Alternative, we would issue an incidental take permit for the applicant’s proposed project, which includes the covered activities described above. The Proposed-Action Alternative would permanently affect approximately 36.44 acres and temporarily affect approximately 12.24 acres of low-quality San Joaquin kit fox foraging and breeding habitat, and would permanently affect 0.071 acre of low-quality vernal pool fairy shrimp aquatic habitat. To mitigate for these effects, the applicant proposes to purchase preservation credits equal to 58.73 acres of high-quality kit fox habitat and purchase preservation credits equal to 0.213 acre of highquality vernal pool habitat at two Service-approved conservation banks. National Environmental Policy Act As described in our EAS, we have made the preliminary determination that approval of the proposed HCP and issuance of the permit would qualify as a categorical exclusion under NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321–4347 et seq.), as provided by NEPA implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR 1500.5(k), 1507.3(b)(2), 1508.4), by Department of Interior regulations (43 CFR 46.205, 46.210, 46.215), and by the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 3 and 516 DM 8). Our EAS found that the proposed HCP qualifies as a ‘‘low-effect’’ habitat conservation plan, as defined by our ‘‘Habitat Conservation Planning and Incidental Take Permitting Process Handbook’’ (November 1996). Determination of whether a habitat conservation plan qualifies as low-effect is based on the following three criteria: (1) Implementation of the proposed HCP would result in minor or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, or candidate species and their habitats; (2) implementation of the proposed HCP would result in minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; and (3) impacts of the HCP, considered together with the impacts of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable projects, would not result, over time, in cumulative effects to environmental values or resources that would be considered significant. Based upon the preliminary determinations in the EAS, we do not intend to prepare further NEPA documentation. We will consider public comments when making E:\FR\FM\14DEN1.SGM 14DEN1 74506 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 241 / Friday, December 14, 2012 / Notices the final determination on whether to prepare an additional NEPA document on the proposed action. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Public Comments [FWS–HQ–IA–2012–N298; FXIA16710900000P5–123–FF09A30000] 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 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 subject 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 environmental issues that should be considered with regard to the proposed development and permit action. Authority mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with Endangered Species; Receipt of Applications for Permit Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of receipt of applications for permit. AGENCY: SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. With some exceptions, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibits activities with listed species unless Federal authorization is acquired that allows such activities. DATES: We must receive comments or requests for documents on or before January 14, 2013. ADDRESSES: Brenda Tapia, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, VA 22203; fax (703) 358–2280; or email DMAFR@fws.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brenda Tapia, (703) 358–2104 (telephone); (703) 358–2280 (fax); DMAFR@fws.gov (email). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Public Comment Procedures We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and the NEPA public-involvement regulations (40 CFR 1500.1(b), 1500.2(d), and 1506.6). We will evaluate the permit application, including the HCP, and comments we receive to determine whether the application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements are met, we will issue a permit to the applicant for the incidental take of the San Joaquin kit fox and the vernal pool fairy shrimp from the implementation of the covered activities described in the Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the Proposed State Route 99/Cartmill Avenue Interchange Improvements Project, City of Tulare, Tulare County, California. We will make the final permit decision no sooner than January 14, 2013. Dated: December 10, 2012. Alexandra Pitts, Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, Sacramento, California. [FR Doc. 2012–30186 Filed 12–13–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P VerDate Mar<15>2010 Fish and Wildlife Service 16:41 Dec 13, 2012 Jkt 229001 A. How do I request copies of applications or comment on submitted applications? Send your request for copies of applications or comments and materials concerning any of the applications to the contact listed under ADDRESSES. Please include the Federal Register notice publication date, the PRTnumber, and the name of the applicant in your request or submission. We will not consider requests or comments sent to an email or address not listed under ADDRESSES. If you provide an email address in your request for copies of applications, we will attempt to respond to your request electronically. Please make your requests or comments as specific as possible. Please confine your comments to issues for which we seek comments in this notice, and explain the basis for your comments. Include sufficient information with your comments to allow us to authenticate any scientific or commercial data you include. The comments and recommendations that will be most useful and likely to influence agency decisions are: (1) PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Those supported by quantitative information or studies; and (2) Those that include citations to, and analyses of, the applicable laws and regulations. We will not consider or include in our administrative record comments we receive after the close of the comment period (see DATES) or comments delivered to an address other than those listed above (see ADDRESSES). B. May I review comments submitted by others? Comments, including names and street addresses of respondents, will be available for public review at the street address listed under ADDRESSES. The public may review documents and other information applicants have sent in support of the application unless our allowing viewing would violate the Privacy Act or Freedom of Information Act. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, 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. II. Background To help us carry out our conservation responsibilities for affected species, and in consideration of section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), along with Executive Order 13576, ‘‘Delivering an Efficient, Effective, and Accountable Government,’’ and the President’s Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies of January 21, 2009—Transparency and Open Government (74 FR 4685; January 26, 2009), which call on all Federal agencies to promote openness and transparency in Government by disclosing information to the public, we invite public comment on these permit applications before final action is taken. III. Permit Applications A. Endangered Species Applicant: Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park, West Palm Beach, FL; PRT– 706378 The applicant requests renewal of their captive-bred wildlife registration under 50 CFR 17.21(g) for the following families, genera, and species, to enhance their propagation or survival. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5year period. E:\FR\FM\14DEN1.SGM 14DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 241 (Friday, December 14, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 74504-74506]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30186]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2012-N204; FF08E00000-FXES11120800000F2-123-F2]


Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the State-Route 
99/Cartmill Avenue Interchange Improvements Project, City of Tulare, 
Tulare County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application from the City of Tulare, Tulare County, 
California (applicant), for a 5-year incidental take permit for two 
species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 
application addresses the potential for ``take'' of two listed animals, 
the vernal pool fairy shrimp and the San Joaquin kit fox. The applicant 
would implement a conservation strategy program to avoid, minimize, and 
mitigate effects of the project's covered activities, as described in 
the applicant's low-effect habitat conservation plan (HCP). We request 
comments on the applicant's application and plan, and our preliminary 
determination that the plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' habitat 
conservation plan, eligible for a categorical exclusion under the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). We 
discuss our basis for this determination in our environmental action 
statement (EAS), also available for public review.

DATES: We must receive written comments on or before January 14, 2013.

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 Low-Effect Habitat 
Conservation Plan for the State Route 99/Cartmill Avenue Interchange 
Improvements Project, City of Tulare, Tulare County, California:
     U.S. Mail: Nina Bicknese, Conservation Planning Division, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 
2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825.
     In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (916) 414-
6600 to make an appointment during regular business hours to drop off 
comments or view received comments at the address shown above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation 
Planning Division, or Eric Tattersall, Deputy Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the address shown above 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:

Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of the permit application, HCP, and EAS from 
the individuals in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Copies of these 
documents are also available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during regular business hours, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES).

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, or other personal 
identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--might 
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.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act prohibits taking of fish and wildlife species 
listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. Under 
the Act, 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 
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). 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).
    However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue 
permits that allow the take of federally listed species, provided that 
the take that occurs is incidental to, but not the purpose of, an 
otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for endangered 
and threatened species are 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.
    The applicant seeks an incidental take permit for proposed covered 
activities within a 219-acre permit area surrounding the intersection 
of State Route 99 and Cartmill Avenue within the City of Tulare, Tulare 
County, California. The HCP does not include any unlisted animal 
species or unlisted plant species. The following two federally listed 
species will be included as covered species in the applicant's proposed 
HCP:

 San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) (endangered)
 Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi) (threatened)

    For these covered species, the applicants would seek incidental 
take authorization. All species included in the incidental take permit 
would receive assurances under our ``No Surprises'' regulations (50 CFR 
17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)).
    Activities proposed for coverage under the proposed incidental take 
permit (covered-activities) would be otherwise lawful activities that 
could occur consistent with the HCP, to include, but not be limited to:
     Widen and improve sections of existing roadway.
     Remove the existing Cartmill Avenue overpass, remove 
associated roadways and associated highway ramps, and dispose of those 
materials.
     Store equipment and supplies in a designated staging area.
     Construct a new Cartmill Avenue overpass, including a 
temporary structure (falsework). Construct new roadways and new highway 
ramps associated with the new overpass.

[[Page 74505]]

     Excavate seven new stormwater detention basins and dispose 
of excavated soil.
     Remove existing vegetation, including plant roots.
     Grade and re-contour ground, compact soil, and install 
road surfaces (paving).
     Install erosion control structures (such as silt fencing 
and barriers).
     Operate heavy equipment (including, but not limited to, 
pneumatic tools, scrapers, bulldozers, backhoes, heavy trucks, cement 
trucks, compactors, and water trucks.
     Control dust by watering soil surfaces.
     Excavate trenches to install traffic signals, lighting 
conduit, streetlights, and similar facilities.
     Sow native-plant species or other groundcover to prevent 
erosion and to restore areas disturbed by construction activities.
     Maintain and operate the completed project, including 
maintenance watering of any landscaping vegetation, future mowing of 
roadside vegetation, and future maintenance repairs to the constructed 
facilities.
    The applicant's proposed project would improve the State Route 99/
Cartmill Avenue Interchange (Interchange) and correct nonstandard 
features of the existing Cartmill Avenue overcrossing. The new Cartmill 
Avenue overpass would provide 16.5 feet of vertical clearance over 
State Route 99, compared to the existing 15 feet, and provide space to 
accommodate any future widening of State Route 99. The approximately 
2,700-foot long overpass-section of Cartmill Avenue would be widened 
from two lanes (approximately 38-feet wide) to become a six-lane 
divided arterial (approximately 128-feet wide). The new Cartmill Avenue 
overpass would transition from six lanes to the existing two lanes in a 
400-foot section west of M Street, and in a 1,300-foot section east of 
the new Akers Street intersection/Tulare Irrigation District Canal 
crossing. The existing M Street intersection with Cartmill Avenue would 
be improved, and a portion of M Street would be reconstructed. An 
existing highway ramp in the southwest quadrant of the Interchange 
would be removed, realigned, and replaced with a new ramp. Three 
additional highway ramps would be constructed in the other Interchange 
quadrants. The existing frontage road (Road 100) in the northeast 
quadrant of the Interchange would be removed, and a new roadway (Akers 
Street) would be constructed in an area approximately 330 feet to the 
east of the existing road. Additional 12-inch-deep water detention 
basins would be excavated in each quadrant of the Interchange. The 
entire project would be constructed in a single phase.
    The applicant proposes to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the effects 
to the covered species associated with the covered activities by fully 
implementing the conservation strategy described in the HCP. Avoidance 
and minimization measures will include compliance with our January 2011 
document ``U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Standard Recommendations for 
Protection of the Endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox Prior to or During 
Ground Disturbance.'' Other avoidance and minimization measures include 
but are not limited to:
     Install barrier fencing around the entire work area.
     Install barrier fences around seasonal pools and other 
sensitive areas.
     Install of erosion control measures around seasonal pools.
     Implement actions to avoid migratory birds and active 
nests.
     Conduct environmental awareness training for onsite 
personnel.
     Conduct preconstruction surveys for kit fox and kit fox 
dens.
     Employ a qualified biological monitor to be on site during 
all initial ground-disturbing construction activities, to revisit the 
construction site at least weekly and assure that all avoidance and 
minimization measures are in good working order, and to prepare 
monitoring reports.
     The biological monitor will have the authority to stop 
work, if deemed necessary.
    The applicant proposes to compensate for covered-species effects 
that cannot be avoided by purchasing preservation credits at the 
Service-approved conservation banks discussed in the HCP.

Alternatives

    Our proposed action is approving the applicant's HCP and issuing an 
incidental take permit for the applicant's covered activities. As 
required by the Act, the applicant's HCP considers alternatives to the 
take expected under the proposed action. The HCP considers the 
environmental consequences of one alternative to the proposed action, 
the No-Action Alternative. Under the No-Action Alternative, we would 
not issue a permit; the applicant would not improve the State Route 99/
Cartmill Avenue Interchange and would not correct nonstandard features 
of the existing Cartmill Avenue overcrossing; project effects on 
covered-species habitat would not occur; and the applicant would not 
implement proposed mitigation measures. While this No-Action 
Alternative would avoid take of covered-species, it is considered 
infeasible because the applicant could not complete necessary traffic 
safety improvements or correct existing circulation, access, and 
capacity problems at the existing interchange.
    Under the Proposed-Action Alternative, we would issue an incidental 
take permit for the applicant's proposed project, which includes the 
covered activities described above. The Proposed-Action Alternative 
would permanently affect approximately 36.44 acres and temporarily 
affect approximately 12.24 acres of low-quality San Joaquin kit fox 
foraging and breeding habitat, and would permanently affect 0.071 acre 
of low-quality vernal pool fairy shrimp aquatic habitat. To mitigate 
for these effects, the applicant proposes to purchase preservation 
credits equal to 58.73 acres of high-quality kit fox habitat and 
purchase preservation credits equal to 0.213 acre of high-quality 
vernal pool habitat at two Service-approved conservation banks.

National Environmental Policy Act

    As described in our EAS, we have made the preliminary determination 
that approval of the proposed HCP and issuance of the permit would 
qualify as a categorical exclusion under NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347 et 
seq.), as provided by NEPA implementing regulations in the Code of 
Federal Regulations (40 CFR 1500.5(k), 1507.3(b)(2), 1508.4), by 
Department of Interior regulations (43 CFR 46.205, 46.210, 46.215), and 
by the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 3 and 516 DM 8). Our 
EAS found that the proposed HCP qualifies as a ``low-effect'' habitat 
conservation plan, as defined by our ``Habitat Conservation Planning 
and Incidental Take Permitting Process Handbook'' (November 1996). 
Determination of whether a habitat conservation plan qualifies as low-
effect is based on the following three criteria: (1) Implementation of 
the proposed HCP would result in minor or negligible effects on 
federally listed, proposed, or candidate species and their habitats; 
(2) implementation of the proposed HCP would result in minor or 
negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; and (3) 
impacts of the HCP, considered together with the impacts of other past, 
present, and reasonably foreseeable projects, would not result, over 
time, in cumulative effects to environmental values or resources that 
would be considered significant. Based upon the preliminary 
determinations in the EAS, we do not intend to prepare further NEPA 
documentation. We will consider public comments when making

[[Page 74506]]

the final determination on whether to prepare an additional NEPA 
document on the proposed action.

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 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 subject 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 environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed development and permit action.

Authority

    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and the 
NEPA public-involvement regulations (40 CFR 1500.1(b), 1500.2(d), and 
1506.6). We will evaluate the permit application, including the HCP, 
and comments we receive to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements are met, 
we will issue a permit to the applicant for the incidental take of the 
San Joaquin kit fox and the vernal pool fairy shrimp from the 
implementation of the covered activities described in the Low-Effect 
Habitat Conservation Plan for the Proposed State Route 99/Cartmill 
Avenue Interchange Improvements Project, City of Tulare, Tulare County, 
California. We will make the final permit decision no sooner than 
January 14, 2013.

    Dated: December 10, 2012.
Alexandra Pitts,
Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, Sacramento, 
California.
[FR Doc. 2012-30186 Filed 12-13-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P