Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange County, California; M2 Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan, Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement, and Incidental Take Permit Application, 66391-66393 [2014-26361]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 216 / Friday, November 7, 2014 / Notices • The accuracy of our estimate of the burden for this collection of information; • Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and • Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents. Comments that you submit in response to this notice are a matter of public record. 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 OMB in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that it will be done. Dated: November 4, 2014. Tina A. Campbell, Chief, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2014–26513 Filed 11–6–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R8–ES–2014–N213; FXES11120000F2–145–FF08ECAR00] Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange County, California; M2 Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan, Draft Environmental Impact Report/ Environmental Impact Statement, and Incidental Take Permit Application Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; notice of public meetings. AGENCY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce receipt of an application from the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA/ applicant) for an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The permit is needed to authorize take of listed animal species due to construction and habitat management and monitoring activities within areas affected by covered freeway projects and in preserves in Orange County, California. We have prepared a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which is the Federal portion of the draft environmental impact report (DEIR)/ DEIS, to analyze the impacts of issuing an incidental take permit based on the mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:12 Nov 06, 2014 Jkt 235001 OCTA’s proposed natural community conservation plan (NCCP)/habitat conservation plan (HCP). The DEIR portion of the joint document was prepared by the OCTA in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The DEIS/DEIR, HCP, and NCCP are available for review. DATES: Please send written comments on or before February 5, 2015. Two public meetings will be held to solicit public comments on the DEIR/ DEIS. These public meetings will be held on the following dates: 1. Thursday, November 20, 2014, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Orange County Transportation Authority, 550 S. Main Street, Orange, California 92868. 2. Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Rancho Santa Margarita City Hall, 22112 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, California 92688. ADDRESSES: Obtaining Documents: You may download copies of the DEIS/DEIR, HCP, and NCCP at the OCTA’s Web site, at http://www.octa.net/. Alternatively, you may use one of the methods under Submitting Comments to request hard copies or a CD–ROM of the documents. Submitting Comments: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more information by one of the following methods. • U.S. Mail: Mr. Mendel Stewart, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2177 Salk Avenue, Suite 250, Carlsbad, CA 92008. • In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (760) 431–1766 to make an appointment during regular business hours at the above address or at the OCTA Office, 550 S Main Street, Orange, CA 92868. • Fax: Mr. Mendel Stewart, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (760) 431–5901, Attn.: Orange County Transportation Authority M2 HCP/EIS Comments. Hardbound copies are also available for viewing at the following Orange County public libraries: 1. Tustin Library, 345 E. Main St., Tustin, CA 92780. 2. Mission Viejo Library, 100 Civic Center, Mission Viejo, CA 92691. 3. Garden Grove Regional Library, 11200 Stanford Ave., Garden Grove, CA 92840. The public meeting locations are: 1. Orange: OCTA, Conference Rooms 103/104, 550 South Main Street, Orange, CA 92863. 2. Rancho Santa Margarita City Hall, 22112 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, California 92688. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen A. Goebel, Assistant Field Supervisor, at the Carlsbad Fish and PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66391 Wildlife Office address above; telephone (760) 431–9440. Information and comments related specifically to the DEIR and the California Environmental Quality Act should be submitted to Mr. Dan Phu, Orange County Transportation Authority (Attn: M2 NCCP/HCP), 550 South Main Street, P.O. Box 14184, Orange, CA 92863–1584. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We announce receipt of an application from the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA/applicant) for an incidental take permit under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The applicant is requesting a permit to incidentally take 10 animal species (including three federally listed species) and seeking assurances for 3 plant species during the term of the proposed 40-year permit. The permit is needed to authorize take of listed animal species due to construction and habitat management and monitoring activities within areas affected by covered freeway projects and in preserves in Orange County, California. We have prepared a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which is the Federal portion of the draft environmental impact report (DEIR)/ DEIS, to analyze the impacts of issuing an incidental take permit based on the OCTA’s proposed natural community conservation plan (NCCP)/habitat conservation plan (HCP). The DEIR portion of the joint document was prepared by the OCTA in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The analyses provided in the DEIR/DEIS are intended to inform the public of the proposed action (i.e., permit issuance), alternatives, and associated impacts; address public comments received during the scoping period for the DEIR/DEIS; disclose the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of the proposed action and each of the alternatives; and indicate any irreversible commitment of resources that would result from implementation of the proposed action. Background Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ‘‘take’’ of fish and wildlife species federally listed as endangered or threatened. 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 (16 U.S.C. 1538). ‘‘Harm’’ includes significant habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or injures E:\FR\FM\07NON1.SGM 07NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 66392 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 216 / Friday, November 7, 2014 / Notices listed wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3(c)). Under limited circumstances, we may issue permits to authorize incidental take, which is defined under the Act as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. The ESA’s take prohibitions do not apply to federally listed plants. Plant species would be included in the permit in recognition of the conservation measures provided to plants under the amended HCP and would receive assurances under the Service’s ‘‘No Surprises’’ rule. The applicant seeks incidental take authorization for 10 animal species and assurances for 3 plant species (all unlisted). Collectively the 13 listed and unlisted species are referred to as ‘‘covered species’’ by the NCCP/HCP and include the 3 plant species, 1 unlisted fish species, 3 reptile species (all unlisted), 4 bird species (2 endangered, 1 threatened, and 1 unlisted), and 2 mammal species (both unlisted). The permit would provide take authorization for all animal species and assurances for all plant species identified by the NCCP/HCP as ‘‘covered species.’’ Take authorized for listed covered animal species would be effective upon permit issuance. For currently unlisted covered animal species, take authorization would become effective concurrent with listing, should the species be listed under the Act during the permit term. The proposed permit would include the following three federally listed animal species: Least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus; endangered), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus; endangered), and coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica; threatened). See the DEIR/ DEIS and NCCP/HCP for additional information on unlisted species proposed for coverage under the permit. The NCCP/HCP is intended to protect and sustain viable populations of native plant and animal species and their habitats in perpetuity through avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures. These measures include purchasing lands for permanent conservation, as well as performing restoration on lands currently protected that will enhance habitat to address mitigation requirements associated with the proposed NCCP/HCP. The proposed NCCP/HCP and permit would accommodate the implementation of the OCTA’s 13 proposed freeway projects designed to reduce congestion, increase capacity, and improve traffic flow of VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:12 Nov 06, 2014 Jkt 235001 Orange County’s important transportation infrastructure. It would also accommodate management activities conducted on the OCTA acquired lands (or Preserves) within Orange County. The OCTA’s NCCP/HCP Plan Area includes approximately 511,476 ac (206,987 ha), encompassing all of Orange County, California. The NCCP/ HCP is intended to function independently of other HCPs within the Orange County region (e.g., Central and Coastal Orange County NCCP/HCP, Orange County Southern HCP, and Western Riverside County’s Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan). As described in the Draft NCCP/HCP and the DEIR/DEIS, the proposed NCCP/ HCP would provide protection measures for species on the OCTA covered Freeway projects as well as for covered activities within the OCTA Preserves, in part by acquiring lands for permanent conservation. Covered activities, including planned and future projects, are estimated to directly affect up to 141 ac (57 ha) of habitat and indirectly affect up to 484.4 ac (196 ha) of habitat for covered species that will require mitigation over the 40-year term of the Permit. Additionally, preserve management and monitoring may adversely affect up to 11 ac (4.5 ha) of habitat. Prior to October 2013, the OCTA purchased five open-space properties totaling 940 ac (380 ha), of which about 900 ac (364 ha) is undeveloped open space and will be available to mitigate for project impacts to covered species. Additional Preserve acquisitions [at least 250 ac (101 ha)] are planned in the near future and are part of this NCCP/HCP. All Preserves will have endowments set up to cover longterm management needs. OCTA has also approved funding for 11 habitat restoration projects in the Plan Area totaling about 400 ac (162 ha). Future restoration efforts are identified within the NCCP/HCP to further benefit covered species. The primary source of funding for the NCCP/HCP will derive from the M2 transportation sales tax designed to raise money to improve Orange County’s transportation system. As part of the M2 sales tax initiative, a minimum of 5 percent of the revenues from the freeway program will be set aside for the M2 Environmental Mitigation Program (EMP) revenues. These funds will be used for ‘‘programmatic mitigation.’’ The development and implementation of the M2 NCCP/HCP will use a portion of this funding source to achieve higher value environmental benefits such as habitat protection, connectivity, and resource preservation/enhancement in PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 exchange for streamlined project approvals for the M2 freeway projects. The expenditures for key components of the NCCP/HCP conservation strategy that achieve upfront and comprehensive mitigation (e.g., Preserve acquisitions and funding of restoration projects) will be paid for through M2 EMP revenues. Any costs associated with implementing avoidance and minimization measures, as described in Section 5.6, ‘‘Avoidance and Minimization,’’ will be funded through the individual construction budgets and will not rely on funding under the M2 EMP. The NCCP/HCP includes measures to avoid and minimize incidental take of the covered species, emphasizing project design modifications to protect covered species and their habitats. A monitoring and reporting plan would gauge the Plan’s success based on achievement of biological goals and objectives and would ensure that conservation keeps pace with development. The NCCP/HCP also includes a management program, including adaptive management, which allows for changes in the conservation program if the biological species objectives are not met, or new information becomes available to improve the efficacy of the NCCP/HCP’s conservation strategy. Covered projects and activities would include 13 discrete proposed freeway segments in which freeway projects have been identified for coverage under the NCCP/HCP. These proposed projects are designed to reduce congestion, increase capacity, and smooth traffic flows of Orange County’s important transportation infrastructure. In addition, activities related to ongoing habitat management, restoration, and monitoring activities by preserve managers and activities necessary to provide limited public access have been identified for coverage. National Environmental Policy Act Compliance The DEIR/DEIS analyzes two alternatives in addition to the proposed action (i.e., permit issuance based on the Draft NCCP/HCP) described above. The other alternatives include a noaction (i.e., no permit) alternative and a reduced plan alternative covering only species that are federally or State-listed as threatened or endangered. Two other alternatives were considered during the planning process but were not evaluated in the DEIS because neither met the purpose or need of both the OCTA and the Service; these alternatives involved a no-take alternative and an alternative requiring the OCTA to participate in project-by-project mitigation. E:\FR\FM\07NON1.SGM 07NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 216 / Friday, November 7, 2014 / Notices Proposed Action Our proposed action is to issue an incidental take permit to the applicant, who would implement the HCP, described above. If we approve the permit, incidental take of covered species would be authorized for the applicant’s activities associated with the construction freeway improvement projects and Preserve Management, Restoration, and Monitoring Activities in Orange County, California. No Project/No Action Alternative Under the No Project/No Action Alternative, the proposed NCCP/HCP, including implementation of conservation measures and creation of a Preserve system, would not be adopted. Compliance with Act and the California Endangered Species Act would be addressed project-by-project for each of the M2 freeway projects. In contrast to the comprehensive strategies to avoid, minimize, or mitigate effects on sensitive species that would be implemented under the proposed action, the No Project/No Action Alternative would address impacts to affected listed species with project-byproject conservation and mitigation. The landscape–scale conservation actions intended to benefit both listed and nonlisted species under the NCCP/HCP would not occur under the No Project/ No Action Alternative. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Reduced Plan Alternative Under the Reduced Plan Alternative, only those species that are federally or State-listed as threatened or endangered would be proposed for coverage under the NCCP/HCP. Accordingly, only the southwestern willow flycatcher, least Bell’s vireo, and coastal California gnatcatcher would be covered under the Reduced Plan Alternative. The amount of land acquisition and Preserve system assembled would be identical to that of the proposed Plan. The amount of species-specific habitat restoration required would be less, however, because the conservation strategy measures would be focused only on the three ESA-listed species mentioned above. Public Comments The Service and OCTA invite the public to comment on the Draft NCCP/ HCP, Draft Implementing Agreement and DEIR/DEIS during a 90-day public comment period beginning the date of this notice. While written comments are encouraged, we will accept both written and oral comments at the public meetings. Please direct written comments to the Service contact listed in the ADDRESSES section, and any VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:12 Nov 06, 2014 Jkt 235001 questions to the Service contact listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. 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. Reasonable Accommodation Individuals who require special accommodations (American Sign Language interpreter, accessible seating, documentation in alternate formats, etc.) to attend and participate in the public meetings are requested to contact Marissa Espino (mespino@octa.net, 714–560–5607) at least 14 days prior to the scheduled public meeting date. Information regarding this proposed action is available in alternative formats upon request. Next Steps Issuance of an incidental take permit is a Federal proposed action subject to compliance with NEPA. This notice is provided under section 10(a) of the Act and Service regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the application, associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to prepare a final EIS. A permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after the publication in the Federal Register of the notice of availability for final EIS and completion of the record of decision. Dated: October 27, 2014. Alexandra Pitts, Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, California. [FR Doc. 2014–26361 Filed 11–6–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Indian Affairs [145A2100DD/A0T501010.999900/ AAK3000000] Renewal of Agency Information Collection for Verification of Indian Preference for Employment in BIA and IHS Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior. ACTION: Notice of submission to OMB. AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66393 In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is submitting to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a request for renewal for the collection of information, ‘‘Verification of Indian Preference for Employment in BIA and IHS.’’ The information collection is currently authorized by OMB Control Number 1076–0160, which expires November 30, 2014. DATES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before December 8, 2014. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the information collection to the Desk Officer for the Department of the Interior at the Office of Management and Budget, by facsimile to (202) 395–5806 or you may send an email to: OIRA_ Submission@omb.eop.gov. Please send a copy of your comments to: Ms. Laurel Iron Cloud, Chief, Division of Tribal Government Services, Office of Indian Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1849 C Street NW., Mail Stop 4513 MIB, Washington, DC 20240; facsimile: (202) 208–5113; email: laurel.ironcloud@ bia.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Laurel Iron Cloud, telephone (202) 513– 7641. You may review the information collection request online at http:// www.reginfo.gov. Follow the instructions to review Department of the Interior collections under review by OMB. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: I. Abstract BIA is seeking renewal of the approval for the information collection conducted under 25 U.S.C. 43, 36 Stat. 472, inter alia, and implementing regulations, at 25 CFR part 5, regarding verification of Indian preference for employment. The purpose of Indian preference is to encourage qualified Indian persons to seek employment with the BIA and Indian Health Service (IHS) by offering preferential treatment to qualified candidates of Indian heritage. BIA collects the information to ensure compliance with Indian preference hiring requirements. The information collection relates only to individuals applying for employment with the BIA and IHS. The tribe’s involvement is limited to verifying membership information submitted by the applicant. The collection of information allows certain persons who are of Indian descent to receive preference when appointments are made to vacancies in positions with the BIA and IHS as well as in any unit that has been transferred intact from the BIA E:\FR\FM\07NON1.SGM 07NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 216 (Friday, November 7, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 66391-66393]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-26361]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2014-N213; FXES11120000F2-145-FF08ECAR00]


Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange County, 
California; M2 Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation 
Plan, Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement, 
and Incidental Take Permit Application

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; notice of public meetings.

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

SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce receipt 
of an application from the Orange County Transportation Authority 
(OCTA/applicant) for an incidental take permit under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The permit is needed to 
authorize take of listed animal species due to construction and habitat 
management and monitoring activities within areas affected by covered 
freeway projects and in preserves in Orange County, California. We have 
prepared a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which is the 
Federal portion of the draft environmental impact report (DEIR)/DEIS, 
to analyze the impacts of issuing an incidental take permit based on 
the OCTA's proposed natural community conservation plan (NCCP)/habitat 
conservation plan (HCP). The DEIR portion of the joint document was 
prepared by the OCTA in compliance with the California Environmental 
Quality Act. The DEIS/DEIR, HCP, and NCCP are available for review.

DATES: Please send written comments on or before February 5, 2015.
    Two public meetings will be held to solicit public comments on the 
DEIR/DEIS. These public meetings will be held on the following dates:
    1. Thursday, November 20, 2014, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Orange County 
Transportation Authority, 550 S. Main Street, Orange, California 92868.
    2. Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Rancho Santa 
Margarita City Hall, 22112 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, California 
92688.

ADDRESSES: Obtaining Documents: You may download copies of the DEIS/
DEIR, HCP, and NCCP at the OCTA's Web site, at http://www.octa.net/. 
Alternatively, you may use one of the methods under Submitting Comments 
to request hard copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    Submitting Comments: You may submit comments or requests for copies 
or more information by one of the following methods.
     U.S. Mail: Mr. Mendel Stewart, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 2177 Salk Avenue, Suite 250, Carlsbad, CA 92008.
     In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (760) 431-
1766 to make an appointment during regular business hours at the above 
address or at the OCTA Office, 550 S Main Street, Orange, CA 92868.
     Fax: Mr. Mendel Stewart, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, (760) 431-5901, Attn.: Orange County Transportation 
Authority M2 HCP/EIS Comments.
    Hardbound copies are also available for viewing at the following 
Orange County public libraries:
    1. Tustin Library, 345 E. Main St., Tustin, CA 92780.
    2. Mission Viejo Library, 100 Civic Center, Mission Viejo, CA 
92691.
    3. Garden Grove Regional Library, 11200 Stanford Ave., Garden 
Grove, CA 92840.
    The public meeting locations are:
    1. Orange: OCTA, Conference Rooms 103/104, 550 South Main Street, 
Orange, CA 92863.
    2. Rancho Santa Margarita City Hall, 22112 El Paseo, Rancho Santa 
Margarita, California 92688.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen A. Goebel, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office address above; 
telephone (760) 431-9440. Information and comments related specifically 
to the DEIR and the California Environmental Quality Act should be 
submitted to Mr. Dan Phu, Orange County Transportation Authority (Attn: 
M2 NCCP/HCP), 550 South Main Street, P.O. Box 14184, Orange, CA 92863-
1584.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We announce receipt of an application from 
the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA/applicant) for an 
incidental take permit under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The 
applicant is requesting a permit to incidentally take 10 animal species 
(including three federally listed species) and seeking assurances for 3 
plant species during the term of the proposed 40-year permit. The 
permit is needed to authorize take of listed animal species due to 
construction and habitat management and monitoring activities within 
areas affected by covered freeway projects and in preserves in Orange 
County, California.
    We have prepared a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), 
which is the Federal portion of the draft environmental impact report 
(DEIR)/DEIS, to analyze the impacts of issuing an incidental take 
permit based on the OCTA's proposed natural community conservation plan 
(NCCP)/habitat conservation plan (HCP). The DEIR portion of the joint 
document was prepared by the OCTA in compliance with the California 
Environmental Quality Act. The analyses provided in the DEIR/DEIS are 
intended to inform the public of the proposed action (i.e., permit 
issuance), alternatives, and associated impacts; address public 
comments received during the scoping period for the DEIR/DEIS; disclose 
the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of the 
proposed action and each of the alternatives; and indicate any 
irreversible commitment of resources that would result from 
implementation of the proposed action.

Background

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species federally listed as endangered or 
threatened. 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 (16 U.S.C. 1538). ``Harm'' includes significant habitat 
modification or degradation that actually kills or injures

[[Page 66392]]

listed wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3(c)). 
Under limited circumstances, we may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take, which is defined under the Act as take that is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. The 
ESA's take prohibitions do not apply to federally listed plants. Plant 
species would be included in the permit in recognition of the 
conservation measures provided to plants under the amended HCP and 
would receive assurances under the Service's ``No Surprises'' rule.
    The applicant seeks incidental take authorization for 10 animal 
species and assurances for 3 plant species (all unlisted). Collectively 
the 13 listed and unlisted species are referred to as ``covered 
species'' by the NCCP/HCP and include the 3 plant species, 1 unlisted 
fish species, 3 reptile species (all unlisted), 4 bird species (2 
endangered, 1 threatened, and 1 unlisted), and 2 mammal species (both 
unlisted). The permit would provide take authorization for all animal 
species and assurances for all plant species identified by the NCCP/HCP 
as ``covered species.'' Take authorized for listed covered animal 
species would be effective upon permit issuance. For currently unlisted 
covered animal species, take authorization would become effective 
concurrent with listing, should the species be listed under the Act 
during the permit term.
    The proposed permit would include the following three federally 
listed animal species: Least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus; 
endangered), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii 
extimus; endangered), and coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila 
californica californica; threatened). See the DEIR/DEIS and NCCP/HCP 
for additional information on unlisted species proposed for coverage 
under the permit.
    The NCCP/HCP is intended to protect and sustain viable populations 
of native plant and animal species and their habitats in perpetuity 
through avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures. These 
measures include purchasing lands for permanent conservation, as well 
as performing restoration on lands currently protected that will 
enhance habitat to address mitigation requirements associated with the 
proposed NCCP/HCP. The proposed NCCP/HCP and permit would accommodate 
the implementation of the OCTA's 13 proposed freeway projects designed 
to reduce congestion, increase capacity, and improve traffic flow of 
Orange County's important transportation infrastructure. It would also 
accommodate management activities conducted on the OCTA acquired lands 
(or Preserves) within Orange County.
    The OCTA's NCCP/HCP Plan Area includes approximately 511,476 ac 
(206,987 ha), encompassing all of Orange County, California. The NCCP/
HCP is intended to function independently of other HCPs within the 
Orange County region (e.g., Central and Coastal Orange County NCCP/HCP, 
Orange County Southern HCP, and Western Riverside County's Multiple 
Species Habitat Conservation Plan).
    As described in the Draft NCCP/HCP and the DEIR/DEIS, the proposed 
NCCP/HCP would provide protection measures for species on the OCTA 
covered Freeway projects as well as for covered activities within the 
OCTA Preserves, in part by acquiring lands for permanent conservation. 
Covered activities, including planned and future projects, are 
estimated to directly affect up to 141 ac (57 ha) of habitat and 
indirectly affect up to 484.4 ac (196 ha) of habitat for covered 
species that will require mitigation over the 40-year term of the 
Permit. Additionally, preserve management and monitoring may adversely 
affect up to 11 ac (4.5 ha) of habitat. Prior to October 2013, the OCTA 
purchased five open-space properties totaling 940 ac (380 ha), of which 
about 900 ac (364 ha) is undeveloped open space and will be available 
to mitigate for project impacts to covered species. Additional Preserve 
acquisitions [at least 250 ac (101 ha)] are planned in the near future 
and are part of this NCCP/HCP. All Preserves will have endowments set 
up to cover long-term management needs. OCTA has also approved funding 
for 11 habitat restoration projects in the Plan Area totaling about 400 
ac (162 ha). Future restoration efforts are identified within the NCCP/
HCP to further benefit covered species.
    The primary source of funding for the NCCP/HCP will derive from the 
M2 transportation sales tax designed to raise money to improve Orange 
County's transportation system. As part of the M2 sales tax initiative, 
a minimum of 5 percent of the revenues from the freeway program will be 
set aside for the M2 Environmental Mitigation Program (EMP) revenues. 
These funds will be used for ``programmatic mitigation.'' The 
development and implementation of the M2 NCCP/HCP will use a portion of 
this funding source to achieve higher value environmental benefits such 
as habitat protection, connectivity, and resource preservation/
enhancement in exchange for streamlined project approvals for the M2 
freeway projects. The expenditures for key components of the NCCP/HCP 
conservation strategy that achieve upfront and comprehensive mitigation 
(e.g., Preserve acquisitions and funding of restoration projects) will 
be paid for through M2 EMP revenues. Any costs associated with 
implementing avoidance and minimization measures, as described in 
Section 5.6, ``Avoidance and Minimization,'' will be funded through the 
individual construction budgets and will not rely on funding under the 
M2 EMP.
    The NCCP/HCP includes measures to avoid and minimize incidental 
take of the covered species, emphasizing project design modifications 
to protect covered species and their habitats. A monitoring and 
reporting plan would gauge the Plan's success based on achievement of 
biological goals and objectives and would ensure that conservation 
keeps pace with development. The NCCP/HCP also includes a management 
program, including adaptive management, which allows for changes in the 
conservation program if the biological species objectives are not met, 
or new information becomes available to improve the efficacy of the 
NCCP/HCP's conservation strategy.
    Covered projects and activities would include 13 discrete proposed 
freeway segments in which freeway projects have been identified for 
coverage under the NCCP/HCP. These proposed projects are designed to 
reduce congestion, increase capacity, and smooth traffic flows of 
Orange County's important transportation infrastructure. In addition, 
activities related to ongoing habitat management, restoration, and 
monitoring activities by preserve managers and activities necessary to 
provide limited public access have been identified for coverage.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The DEIR/DEIS analyzes two alternatives in addition to the proposed 
action (i.e., permit issuance based on the Draft NCCP/HCP) described 
above. The other alternatives include a no-action (i.e., no permit) 
alternative and a reduced plan alternative covering only species that 
are federally or State-listed as threatened or endangered. Two other 
alternatives were considered during the planning process but were not 
evaluated in the DEIS because neither met the purpose or need of both 
the OCTA and the Service; these alternatives involved a no-take 
alternative and an alternative requiring the OCTA to participate in 
project-by-project mitigation.

[[Page 66393]]

Proposed Action

    Our proposed action is to issue an incidental take permit to the 
applicant, who would implement the HCP, described above. If we approve 
the permit, incidental take of covered species would be authorized for 
the applicant's activities associated with the construction freeway 
improvement projects and Preserve Management, Restoration, and 
Monitoring Activities in Orange County, California.

No Project/No Action Alternative

    Under the No Project/No Action Alternative, the proposed NCCP/HCP, 
including implementation of conservation measures and creation of a 
Preserve system, would not be adopted. Compliance with Act and the 
California Endangered Species Act would be addressed project-by-project 
for each of the M2 freeway projects. In contrast to the comprehensive 
strategies to avoid, minimize, or mitigate effects on sensitive species 
that would be implemented under the proposed action, the No Project/No 
Action Alternative would address impacts to affected listed species 
with project-by-project conservation and mitigation. The landscape-
scale conservation actions intended to benefit both listed and non-
listed species under the NCCP/HCP would not occur under the No Project/
No Action Alternative.

Reduced Plan Alternative

    Under the Reduced Plan Alternative, only those species that are 
federally or State-listed as threatened or endangered would be proposed 
for coverage under the NCCP/HCP. Accordingly, only the southwestern 
willow flycatcher, least Bell's vireo, and coastal California 
gnatcatcher would be covered under the Reduced Plan Alternative. The 
amount of land acquisition and Preserve system assembled would be 
identical to that of the proposed Plan. The amount of species-specific 
habitat restoration required would be less, however, because the 
conservation strategy measures would be focused only on the three ESA-
listed species mentioned above.

Public Comments

    The Service and OCTA invite the public to comment on the Draft 
NCCP/HCP, Draft Implementing Agreement and DEIR/DEIS during a 90-day 
public comment period beginning the date of this notice. While written 
comments are encouraged, we will accept both written and oral comments 
at the public meetings. Please direct written comments to the Service 
contact listed in the ADDRESSES section, and any questions to the 
Service contact listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. 
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.

Reasonable Accommodation

    Individuals who require special accommodations (American Sign 
Language interpreter, accessible seating, documentation in alternate 
formats, etc.) to attend and participate in the public meetings are 
requested to contact Marissa Espino (mespino@octa.net, 714-560-5607) at 
least 14 days prior to the scheduled public meeting date. Information 
regarding this proposed action is available in alternative formats upon 
request.

Next Steps

    Issuance of an incidental take permit is a Federal proposed action 
subject to compliance with NEPA. This notice is provided under section 
10(a) of the Act and Service regulations for implementing the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the 
application, associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to 
prepare a final EIS. A permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 
days after the publication in the Federal Register of the notice of 
availability for final EIS and completion of the record of decision.

    Dated: October 27, 2014.
Alexandra Pitts,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
California.
[FR Doc. 2014-26361 Filed 11-6-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P