[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 148 (Wednesday, July 31, 1996)]
[Pages 39978-39979]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-19405]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Pacific Gas and Electric 
Company's Blackhawk Distribution Feeder Main Natural Gas Pipeline, 
Contra Costa County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: This notice advises that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company 
has applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an 
incidental take permit pursuant to of the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act). The application has been assigned permit number 
PRT-817075. The proposed permit would authorize the incidental take of 
the federally threatened California red-legged frog (Rana aurora 
draytonii) and/or its habitat during the installation and operation of 
a natural gas distribution pipeline. The permit would be in effect for 
three years.
    The Service also announces the availability of an environmental 
assessment for the incidental take permit application, which includes 
the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) fully describing the 
proposed project and mitigation, and the accompanying Implementing 
Agreement. This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act 
and National Environmental Policy Act regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). All 
comments, including names and addresses, received will become part of 
the official administrative record and may be made available to the 

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, environmental 
assessment and Implementing Agreement should be received on or before 
August 30, 1996.

ADDRESSES: Comments regarding the application or adequacy of the 
environmental assessment and Implementing Agreement should be addressed 
to, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Field Office, 3310 El 
Camino, Suite 130, Sacramento, California 95821-6340. Please refer to 
permit number PRT-817075 when submitting comments. Individuals wishing 
copies of the application, environmental assessment or Implementing 
Agreement for review should immediately contact the above office. 
Documents will also be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Michael Horton or Ms. Tiki Baron, 
Sacramento Field Office, 916-979-2725.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the Act prohibits the 
``taking'' of a species listed as threatened or endangered. However, 
the Service, under limited circumstances, may issue permits to take 
listed species incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful 
activities. Regulations governing permits for threatened species are 
promulgated at 50 CFR 17.32.


    Pacific Gas and Electric Company proposes to install and operate a 
4-mile-long buried natural gas pipeline within a 50-foot-wide right-of-
way in the vicinity of San Ramon, Contra Costa County, California. The 
site is located east and south of San Ramon, California. Pacific Gas 
and Electric Company seeks coverage for the temporary disturbance of 
habitat and potential direct take of the California red-legged frog on 
approximately 5 acres of the project site. To compensate for project 
impacts, Pacific Gas and Electric Company will develop and implement a 
plan to acquire, enhance, maintain, restore and/or create and monitor 
approximately 10 acres of suitable California red-legged frog habitat 
(two acres of compensation habitat for every one acre of habitat 
disturbed) within the San Francisco Bay/Suisun Bay watershed. In 
addition, the approximately 5 acres of temporarily disturbed habitat 
would be restored to suitable California red-legged frog habitat. Other 
measures are specified in the Habitat Conservation Plan to minimize the 
potential for take during installation activities.
    The environmental assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of four alternatives. The no project alternative would 
result in no

[[Page 39979]]

immediate environmental impacts. However, this alternative does not 
satisfy the purpose and need of the proposed project (to supply natural 
gas in a safe and reliable manner) and may adversely impact the local 
economy if natural gas service was curtailed or limited. This 
alternative was rejected because it would prevent Pacific Gas and 
Electric Company from meeting its customer demands, its legal mandate 
and the California Public Utilities Commission's mandate to provide 
safe, adequate and reliable natural gas service. Alternative 2 would 
utilize an existing utility right-of-way to install and operate the 
proposed natural gas pipeline. This alternative alignment is longer 
than the proposed alignment and therefore more expensive to install. In 
addition, this alignment would require additional seismic fault 
protection and may encounter future land use conflicts. Although this 
alternative would likely result in fewer initial impacts to the 
California red-legged frog, the potential for significant long-term 
impacts is greater than with the proposed alternative. Alternative 3 
would utilize an existing road franchise along Dougherty Road for 
pipeline installation. This currently unpaved road would be closed to 
traffic during pipeline installation and portions of the road would 
need to be reconstructed and improved following installation. Thus, 
while Alternative 3 would entail fewer initial impacts to the 
California red-legged frog, the potential long-term impacts resulting 
from increased traffic and contaminants from road runoff would likely 
be greater than with the proposed alternative. Alternative 4, the 
proposed alternative, was selected because: (1) It best satisfies the 
needs and purpose of the proposed project; (2) it is likely to result 
in a relatively low level of incidental take; and (3) impacts are 
minimized and mitigated by the conservation of suitable California red-
legged frog habitat and other measures specified in the Habitat 
Conservation Plan.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act and 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). 
The Service will evaluate the application, associated documents, and 
comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets 
the requirements of National Environmental Policy Act regulations and 
section 10(a) of the Act. If it is determined that the requirements are 
met, a permit will be issued for the incidental take of the listed 
species. The final permit decision will be made following a review of 
all comments received in response to this notice.

Dated: July 25, 1996.
David L. McMullen,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 96-19405 Filed 7-30-96; 8:45 am]