Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Cross Valley Transmission Line Habitat Conservation Plan, Tulare County, California, 44586-44588 [2013-17772]

Download as PDF 44586 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 142 / Wednesday, July 24, 2013 / Notices Dated: July 17, 2013. Richard R. Hannan, Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2013–17766 Filed 7–23–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R8–ES–2013–N133; FF08E00000– FXES11120800000F2–123–F2] Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Cross Valley Transmission Line Habitat Conservation Plan, Tulare County, California Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; receipt of permit application, draft environmental assessment, proposed habitat conservation plan: request for comments. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), in response to an application from Southern California Edison (the Applicant) for an incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The application addresses the proposed incidental take (take) of 13 proposed Covered Species within a 3,385-acre Permit Area during a proposed permit term of 30 years. The Applicant has prepared the draft Cross Valley Transmission Line Habitat Conservation Plan (Cross Valley Line HCP) (HCP) to describe and implement a conservation plan that will minimize and mitigate environmental effects associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Cross Valley Loop Transmission Line, an electrical transmission project in central Tulare County, California. We also announce a 45-day public comment period on the permit application, including the draft EA and the proposed HCP. 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 September 9, 2013. ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Nina Bicknese, Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Jul 23, 2013 Jkt 229001 W–2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. Alternatively, you may send comments by facsimile to (916) 414–6713. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation Planning Division, or Eric Tattersall, 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: We publish this notice under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321–4347 et seq.; NEPA), and its implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1500–1508, as well as in compliance with section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531–1544 et seq.; Act). Availability of Documents You may obtain copies of the draft EA, the draft HCP, and the permit application from the individuals in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, or from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office Web site at http://www.fws.gov/ sacramento. 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). Background Information Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531– 1544 et seq.) and Federal regulations prohibit the taking of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. Take of federally listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed species, or attempt to engage in such conduct. The term ‘‘harass’’ is defined in the regulations as to carry out actions that create the likelihood of injury to listed species to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns, which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The term ‘‘harm’’ is defined in the regulations as significant habitat modification or degradation that results in death or injury of listed species by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue permits that allow the take of federally listed species, provided that the take that occurs is incidental to, but not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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 draft HCP addresses, and the Applicant seeks incidental take authorization for, 13 species, including 10 animal species (4 federally endangered, 3 federally threatened, and 3 unlisted) and 3 plant species (2 federally threatened, 1 unlisted). The proposed permit would provide take authorization for all species identified in the draft HCP as a Covered Species. Take authorized for listed Covered Species would be effective upon permit issuance. Take authorization for currently unlisted Covered Species would become effective concurrent with listing, should the species be listed under the Act during the proposed 30year Permit Term. The proposed ITP would include the following nine federally listed species: the threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), the endangered vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi), the threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), the threatened California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), the endangered least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), the endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica), the threatened Hoover’s spurge (Chamaesyce hooveri), and the threatened San Joaquin Valley Orcutt grass (Orcuttia inaequalis). The unlisted species proposed for coverage under the draft HCP are the western spadefoot toad (Spea hammondii), the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), the little willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii brewsteri), and the spiny-sepaled button-celery (Eryngium spinosepalum). Implementation of Covered Activities described in the proposed HCP would E:\FR\FM\24JYN1.SGM 24JYN1 sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 142 / Wednesday, July 24, 2013 / Notices construct a new 23-mile-long doublecircuit 220 kV transmission line (including construction of 90 new 160foot tubular-steel poles [TSPs] and 16 new 12-foot lattice steel towers [LSTs]); preparation of temporary work areas to allow for equipment access, use, and staging during construction; access road construction; improvements to existing access roads; use of existing laydown yards; and activities associated with future operation and maintenance of the new transmission line. Specifically, the Applicant is requesting coverage for incidental take resulting from the following seven categories of construction Covered Activities: (1) operation and restoration of existing laydown yards; (2) construction of new dirt access roads; (3) improvement and repair of existing access roads; (4) construction of transmission line structures (TSPs and LSTs); (5) stringing of electrical conductors (electrical wires) and the optical ground wire on the transmission line structures; (6) installation of Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan best management practices; and (7) implementation of avoidance and minimization measures. In addition, the Applicant is also requesting coverage for incidental take resulting from the following 13 categories of operation and maintenance Covered Activities that will be implemented over the proposed 30-year Permit term: (1) the aerial inspections of the operational Cross Valley Loop Transmission Line using helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft; (2) routine transmission line ground patrols; (3) optical ground wire testing; (4) minor and major repairs to TSPs and LSTs; (5) minor and major repairs or replacement of conductors and the optical ground wire; (6) insulator washing; (7) replacement of one TSP or one LST structure; (8) repair/replacement of bird flight diverters; (9) access road maintenance; (10) access road drainage-structure maintenance or replacement; (11) installation of Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan best management practices during maintenance actions; (12) tree pruning for vegetation management; and (13) brush and weed abatement for vegetation management. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Jul 23, 2013 Jkt 229001 The proposed Covered Activities would result in the permanent or temporary disturbance of up to 199 acres of existing landcover within the proposed 3,385-acre Permit Area. The proposed Permit Area comprises natural and anthropomorphic landcover types, including annual grassland, vernal pools, riparian woodland, agricultural fields, orchards, vineyards, irrigated pastures, urban developments, and rural residential developments. Covered Activity impacts to existing landcover types were used as a surrogate to identify maximum potential impacts to species-suitable habitat and the potential take of each Covered Species. The proposed HCP conservation strategy prescribes conditions for implementing each Covered Activity that avoid or minimize potential take of the Covered Species, and identifies compensatory mitigation for species effects that cannot be avoided. National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Our proposed permit issuance decision triggers compliance with NEPA, which requires that environmental information be available to public officials and citizens before Federal decisions are made and before Federal actions are taken. We prepared the draft EA to inform the public of the proposed HCP; our proposed permit action; alternatives to that action; the environmental impacts of the alternatives including the proposed action; any adverse environmental effects that cannot be avoided; any irreversible commitments of resources, and to address comments received during early public scoping efforts. Alternatives in the Draft Environmental Assessment The Service is providing notice of the availability of our draft EA, which evaluates the impacts of the Proposed Action Alternative as well as a No Action Alternative. No Action Alternative: Under the No Action Alternative, we would not issue an incidental take permit to the Applicant, the Applicant would not implement an HCP, and the Cross Valley Loop Transmission Line could not be constructed. The No Action Alternative would not address the Applicant’s underlying electrical needs or existing substation electrical-overload problems, and would not achieve the Applicant’s objectives in proposing a Cross Valley Loop Transmission Line. Proposed Action Alternative: Under the Proposed Action Alternative, we would issue an incidental take permit for the Applicant’s proposed HCP, PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 44587 which includes the Covered Activities and the conservation measures described above in Background Information, and described with more detail in the Applicant’s Cross Valley Line HCP document. Other Action Alternatives: Under Department of the Interior regulations for implementation of NEPA (43 CFR Part 46), when there are no unresolved conflicts about a proposed action with respect to alternative uses of the available resources, an environmental assessment need only consider the proposed action, and does not need to consider additional action alternatives, pursuant to section 102(2)(E) of NEPA. The Service has determined that the Proposed Action under consideration meets these requirements. Consequently, no additional action alternatives are analyzed in our draft EA. 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 transmission line and permit action. You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods listed above in ADDRESSES. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the EA document, will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at our office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). 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 E:\FR\FM\24JYN1.SGM 24JYN1 44588 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 142 / Wednesday, July 24, 2013 / Notices 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. 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). Next Steps We will evaluate the permit application, including the Applicant’s 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 13 Covered Species from the implementation of the Covered Activities described in the Cross Valley Line HCP. We will make the final permit decision no sooner than September 23, 2013. Dated: July 17, 2013. Alexandra Pitts, Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, California. [FR Doc. 2013–17772 Filed 7–23–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R1–ES–2013–N137; FXES11130100000D2–134–FF01E00000] Experimental Removal of Barred Owls To Benefit Threatened Northern Spotted Owls; Final Environmental Impact Statement Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability of the final environmental impact statement (Final EIS) for experimental removal of barred owls to benefit threatened northern spotted owls. The barred owl, a species recently established in western North America, is displacing the northern spotted owl and threatening its viability. The Final EIS analyzes a no-action alternative and eight action alternatives to experimentally determine if removing barred owls will benefit northern spotted owl populations and to test the feasibility and efficiency of barred owl removal as a management tool. The sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:35 Jul 23, 2013 Jkt 229001 Background The Service listed the northern spotted owl as a threatened species under the Act in 1990, based primarily ADDRESSES: The Final EIS is available at: on habitat loss and degradation (55 FR 26114). As a result, conservation efforts • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for the northern spotted owl have been Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 largely focused on habitat protection. SE 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR While our listing rule noted that the 97266; telephone 503–231–6179. long-term impact of barred owls on the • Internet: http://www.fws.gov/ spotted owl was of considerable oregonfwo. concern, the scope and severity of this threat was largely unknown at that time FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul (55 FR 26114, p. 26190). The Recovery Henson, State Supervisor, Oregon Fish Plan summarized information available and Wildlife Office, at 503–231–6179. If since our listing rule and found that you use a telecommunications device competition from barred owls now for the deaf, please call the Federal poses a significant and immediate threat Information Relay Service at 800–877– to the northern spotted owl throughout 8339. its range (USFWS 2011, pp. B–10 through B–12). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Historically, the barred owl and We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife northern spotted owl did not co-occur. Service (Service), announce the In the past century, barred owls have availability of the Final EIS for expanded their range westward, experimental removal of barred owls to reaching the range of the northern benefit threatened northern spotted spotted owl in British Columbia by owls. We are publishing this notice in about 1959. Barred owl populations compliance with the National continue to expand southward within Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as the range of the northern spotted owl, amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; NEPA) the population of barred owls behind and its implementing regulations at 40 the expansion-front continues to CFR 1506.6. The Final EIS evaluates the increase, and barred owls now impacts of eight action alternatives and outnumber spotted owls in many a no-action alternative related to: (1) portions of the northern spotted owl’s Federal involvement in barred owl range (Pearson and Livezey 2003, p. removal experiments, and (2) the 272). possible issuance of one or more There is strong evidence to indicate scientific collecting permits under the that barred owls are negatively affecting Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. northern spotted owl populations. 703–712; MBTA) for lethal and Barred owls displace spotted owls from nonlethal take of barred owls. high-quality habitat (Kelley et al. 2003, p. 51; Pearson and Livezey 2003, p. 274; The northern spotted owl (Strix Courtney et al., pp. 7–27 through 7–31; occidentalis caurina) is listed as Gremel 2005, pp. 9, 11, 17; Hamer et al. threatened under the Endangered 2007, p. 764; Dugger et al. 2011, pp. Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; 2464–1466), reducing their survival and Act). Competition from barred owls reproduction (Olson et al. 2004, p. 1048; (Strix varia) is identified as one of the main threats to the northern spotted owl Anthony et al. 2006, p. 32; Forsman et al. 2011, pp. 41–43, 69–70). In addition, in the 2011 Revised Northern Spotted barred owls may physically attack Owl Recovery Plan (Recovery Plan) spotted owls (Gutierrez et al. 2007, p. (USFWS 2011, p. III–62). To address 187). These effects may help explain this threat, the Recovery Plan declines in northern spotted owl recommends designing and territory occupancy associated with implementing large-scale controlled barred owls in Oregon, and reduced experiments to assess the effects of northern spotted owl survivorship and barred owl removal on spotted owl site sharp population declines in occupancy, reproduction, and survival Washington (e.g., in northern (USFWS 2011, p. III–65). The study Washington, spotted owl populations would be conducted on from one to declined by as much as 55 percent several study areas in western between 1996 and 2006) (Anthony et al. Washington, western Oregon, and 2006, pp. 21, 30, 32; Forsman et al. northwestern California. The action 2011, pp. 43–47, 65–66)). Without alternatives vary by the number and management intervention, it is location of study areas, the type of reasonable to expect that competition experimental design, duration of the from barred owls may cause extirpation study, and the method of barred owl of the northern spotted owl from all or removal. action alternatives vary by the number and location of study areas, the type of experimental design, duration of study, and method of barred owl removal. PO 00000 Frm 00070 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\24JYN1.SGM 24JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 142 (Wednesday, July 24, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 44586-44588]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-17772]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2013-N133; FF08E00000-FXES11120800000F2-123-F2]


Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Cross Valley 
Transmission Line Habitat Conservation Plan, Tulare County, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; receipt of permit application, draft 
environmental assessment, proposed habitat conservation plan: request 
for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) under the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), in response to an 
application from Southern California Edison (the Applicant) for an 
incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The application 
addresses the proposed incidental take (take) of 13 proposed Covered 
Species within a 3,385-acre Permit Area during a proposed permit term 
of 30 years. The Applicant has prepared the draft Cross Valley 
Transmission Line Habitat Conservation Plan (Cross Valley Line HCP) 
(HCP) to describe and implement a conservation plan that will minimize 
and mitigate environmental effects associated with the construction, 
operation, and maintenance of the Cross Valley Loop Transmission Line, 
an electrical transmission project in central Tulare County, 
California. We also announce a 45-day public comment period on the 
permit application, including the draft EA and the proposed HCP. 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 
September 9, 2013.

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

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation 
Planning Division, or Eric Tattersall, 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: We publish this notice under the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347 et 
seq.; NEPA), and its implementing regulations in the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1500-1508, as well as in compliance with 
section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544 et 
seq.; Act).

Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of the draft EA, the draft HCP, and the 
permit application from the individuals in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT, or from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office Web site at 
http://www.fws.gov/sacramento. 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).

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544 et seq.) and Federal 
regulations prohibit the taking of fish and wildlife species listed as 
endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. Take of federally 
listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act as to harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed 
species, or attempt to engage in such conduct. The term ``harass'' is 
defined in the regulations as to carry out actions that create the 
likelihood of injury to listed species to such an extent as to 
significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns, which include, but 
are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The 
term ``harm'' is defined in the regulations as significant habitat 
modification or degradation that results in death or injury of listed 
species by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). However, 
under specified circumstances, the Service may issue permits that allow 
the take of federally 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 draft HCP addresses, and the Applicant seeks incidental take 
authorization for, 13 species, including 10 animal species (4 federally 
endangered, 3 federally threatened, and 3 unlisted) and 3 plant species 
(2 federally threatened, 1 unlisted). The proposed permit would provide 
take authorization for all species identified in the draft HCP as a 
Covered Species. Take authorized for listed Covered Species would be 
effective upon permit issuance. Take authorization for currently 
unlisted Covered Species would become effective concurrent with 
listing, should the species be listed under the Act during the proposed 
30-year Permit Term.
    The proposed ITP would include the following nine federally listed 
species: the threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), 
the endangered vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi), the 
threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus 
dimorphus), the threatened California tiger salamander (Ambystoma 
californiense), the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher 
(Empidonax traillii extimus), the endangered least Bell's vireo (Vireo 
bellii pusillus), the endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis 
mutica), the threatened Hoover's spurge (Chamaesyce hooveri), and the 
threatened San Joaquin Valley Orcutt grass (Orcuttia inaequalis). The 
unlisted species proposed for coverage under the draft HCP are the 
western spadefoot toad (Spea hammondii), the burrowing owl (Athene 
cunicularia), the little willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii 
brewsteri), and the spiny-sepaled button-celery (Eryngium 
spinosepalum).
    Implementation of Covered Activities described in the proposed HCP 
would

[[Page 44587]]

construct a new 23-mile-long double-circuit 220 kV transmission line 
(including construction of 90 new 160-foot tubular-steel poles [TSPs] 
and 16 new 12-foot lattice steel towers [LSTs]); preparation of 
temporary work areas to allow for equipment access, use, and staging 
during construction; access road construction; improvements to existing 
access roads; use of existing laydown yards; and activities associated 
with future operation and maintenance of the new transmission line.
    Specifically, the Applicant is requesting coverage for incidental 
take resulting from the following seven categories of construction 
Covered Activities:
    (1) operation and restoration of existing laydown yards;
    (2) construction of new dirt access roads;
    (3) improvement and repair of existing access roads;
    (4) construction of transmission line structures (TSPs and LSTs);
    (5) stringing of electrical conductors (electrical wires) and the 
optical ground wire on the transmission line structures;
    (6) installation of Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan best 
management practices; and
    (7) implementation of avoidance and minimization measures.
    In addition, the Applicant is also requesting coverage for 
incidental take resulting from the following 13 categories of operation 
and maintenance Covered Activities that will be implemented over the 
proposed 30-year Permit term:
    (1) the aerial inspections of the operational Cross Valley Loop 
Transmission Line using helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft;
    (2) routine transmission line ground patrols;
    (3) optical ground wire testing;
    (4) minor and major repairs to TSPs and LSTs;
    (5) minor and major repairs or replacement of conductors and the 
optical ground wire;
    (6) insulator washing;
    (7) replacement of one TSP or one LST structure;
    (8) repair/replacement of bird flight diverters;
    (9) access road maintenance;
    (10) access road drainage-structure maintenance or replacement;
    (11) installation of Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan best 
management practices during maintenance actions;
    (12) tree pruning for vegetation management; and
    (13) brush and weed abatement for vegetation management.
    The proposed Covered Activities would result in the permanent or 
temporary disturbance of up to 199 acres of existing landcover within 
the proposed 3,385-acre Permit Area. The proposed Permit Area comprises 
natural and anthropomorphic landcover types, including annual 
grassland, vernal pools, riparian woodland, agricultural fields, 
orchards, vineyards, irrigated pastures, urban developments, and rural 
residential developments. Covered Activity impacts to existing 
landcover types were used as a surrogate to identify maximum potential 
impacts to species-suitable habitat and the potential take of each 
Covered Species. The proposed HCP conservation strategy prescribes 
conditions for implementing each Covered Activity that avoid or 
minimize potential take of the Covered Species, and identifies 
compensatory mitigation for species effects that cannot be avoided.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    Our proposed permit issuance decision triggers compliance with 
NEPA, which requires that environmental information be available to 
public officials and citizens before Federal decisions are made and 
before Federal actions are taken. We prepared the draft EA to inform 
the public of the proposed HCP; our proposed permit action; 
alternatives to that action; the environmental impacts of the 
alternatives including the proposed action; any adverse environmental 
effects that cannot be avoided; any irreversible commitments of 
resources, and to address comments received during early public scoping 
efforts.

Alternatives in the Draft Environmental Assessment

    The Service is providing notice of the availability of our draft 
EA, which evaluates the impacts of the Proposed Action Alternative as 
well as a No Action Alternative.
    No Action Alternative: Under the No Action Alternative, we would 
not issue an incidental take permit to the Applicant, the Applicant 
would not implement an HCP, and the Cross Valley Loop Transmission Line 
could not be constructed. The No Action Alternative would not address 
the Applicant's underlying electrical needs or existing substation 
electrical-overload problems, and would not achieve the Applicant's 
objectives in proposing a Cross Valley Loop Transmission Line.
    Proposed Action Alternative: Under the Proposed Action Alternative, 
we would issue an incidental take permit for the Applicant's proposed 
HCP, which includes the Covered Activities and the conservation 
measures described above in Background Information, and described with 
more detail in the Applicant's Cross Valley Line HCP document.
    Other Action Alternatives: Under Department of the Interior 
regulations for implementation of NEPA (43 CFR Part 46), when there are 
no unresolved conflicts about a proposed action with respect to 
alternative uses of the available resources, an environmental 
assessment need only consider the proposed action, and does not need to 
consider additional action alternatives, pursuant to section 102(2)(E) 
of NEPA. The Service has determined that the Proposed Action under 
consideration meets these requirements. Consequently, no additional 
action alternatives are analyzed in our draft EA.

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 transmission line and permit 
action.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed above in ADDRESSES. Comments and materials we receive, as well 
as supporting documentation we used in preparing the EA document, will 
be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal 
business hours, at our office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

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

[[Page 44588]]

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.

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).

Next Steps

    We will evaluate the permit application, including the Applicant's 
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 13 Covered Species from the implementation of the Covered 
Activities described in the Cross Valley Line HCP. We will make the 
final permit decision no sooner than September 23, 2013.

    Dated: July 17, 2013.
Alexandra Pitts,
Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 2013-17772 Filed 7-23-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P