Environmental impact analysis underway for South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan
73 Fed. Reg. 32729(Tuesday, June 10, 2008)(DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; Fish and Wildlife Service; Habitat Conservation Plan for South Sacramento, Sacramento County, CA; Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement/ Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) and notice of public scoping meetings.
Photo of the Old Fair Oaks Bridge in Sacramento County. For more information about the South Sacramento HCP, visit the County of Sacramento webpage dedicated to the HCP.
SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) we, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise the public that we intend to gather information necessary to prepare, in coordination with the County of Sacramento (the County), a joint Environmental Impact Statement/ Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR). The EIS/EIR will analyze the environmental effects of the Service’s proposed issuance of an incidental take permit under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 as amended (ESA), for a habitat conservation plan (HCP) within a portion of south Sacramento County, California. The County, along with their local partners (the cities of Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Galt, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, and the Sacramento County Water Agency), is facilitating the preparation of the South Sacramento HCP (SSHCP) in compliance with section 10(a)(2) of the ESA. The County and their local partners intend to apply to the Service for a 30-year permit that would authorized the incidental take of 40 species due to ground-disturbing private activities implemented under the SSHCP.
NOTEWORTHY EXCERPT: The activities proposed for coverage in the SSHCP are wide-ranging, but are generally related to urban-suburban development on city and unincorporated lands... covered activities are expected to impact 18 existing habitat and agricultural land-cover types within the 341,000-acre Planning Area. Approximately 43,500 acres of the existing natural habitat and agricultural land-cover in the Planning Area would be converted to a developed condition under the proposed SSHCP. The proposed SSHCP Conservation Strategy would provide a regional approach for the conservation of the 40 covered-species and their 18 habitat types so as to aid recovery of the species and to minimize and mitigate impacts of the covered activities on the species and their habitats within the Planning Area. The 18 species habitat types include vernal pools and associated uplands, valley grasslands, other wetlands, woodlands, riparian habitats, and several agricultural land-cover types. The proposed SSHCP Conservation Strategy would protect a total of approximately 47,000 acres and restore or create a total of approximately 1,500 acres within the 341,000-acre Planning Area. The SSHCP Planning Area would be divided into a system of 12 conservation zones with an explicit amount of species habitat preservation directed to specific zones. The County and its partners anticipate that large landscape preserves and linkage corridors would be established outside of the UDA, and that these habitat preserves would be established within a matrix of open space and agricultural land uses. The proposed Conservation Strategy also includes approximately 8,000 acres of habitat preserves within the UDA, but these UDA habitat preserves would be much smaller and would eventually be surrounded by urban or suburban development. Components of the proposed SSHCP conservation program are now under consideration by the Service and the County. These components may include monitoring, adaptive management, species avoidance measures, and species mitigation measures including the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of suitable habitat.
COMMENTARY: The SSHCP represents the latest HCP planned for an area where HCPs have been much litigated. See information on the implementation of the Natomas Basin HCP and Metro Air Park HCP. In this instance, FWS has encouraged the effort -- after all, large scale HCP-based habitat preservation beats incremental ESA enforcement -- providing grant funding, and U.S. EPA followed with another grant of its own. .