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Notice

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for a City Government Facility, Deltona, Volusia County, FL

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

The City of Deltona (Applicant), seeks an incidental take permit (ITP) from the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. The ITP would authorize the take of two families of the threatened Florida scrub-jay, Aphelocoma coerulescens and the threatened eastern indigo snake, Drymarchon corais couperi, in Volusia County, Florida, for a period of twenty (20) years. The proposed taking is incidental to land clearing activities, road widening and development on a 10-acre project site (Project). The Project contains about 0.2 acre of occupied Florida scrub-jay habitat, and the potential exists for the entire Project to provide habitat to the eastern indigo snake. A description of the mitigation and minimization measures outlined in the Applicant's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to address the effects of the Project to the protected species is described further in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below.

The Service also announces the availability of an environmental Start Printed Page 58158assessment (EA) and HCP for the incidental take application. Copies of the EA and/or HCP may be obtained by making a request to the Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). Requests must be in writing to be processed. This notice also advises the public that the Service has made a preliminary determination that issuing the ITP is not a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the meaning of section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended. The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is based on information contained in the EA and HCP. The final determination will be made no sooner than 60 days from the date of this notice. This notice is provided pursuant to Section 10 of the Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES:

Written comments on the permit application, EA, and HCP should be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before January 22, 2002.

ADDRESSES:

Persons wishing to review the application, HCP, and EA may obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office, Atlanta, Georgia. Documents will also be available for public inspection by appointment during normal business hours at the Regional Office, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: Endangered Species Permits), or Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0912. Written data or comments concerning the application, EA, or HCP should be submitted to the Regional Office. Comments and requests for the documentation must be in writing to be processed. Please reference permit number TE038176-0 in such comments, or in requests of the documents discussed herein.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mr. David Dell, Regional Permit Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313; or Mr. Miles A. Meyer, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Jacksonville Field Office, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 904/232-2580, extension 114.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The Florida scrub-jay is geographically isolated from other subspecies of scrub-jays found in Mexico and the Western United States. The Florida scrub-jay is found exclusively in peninsular Florida and is restricted to scrub habitat. The total estimated population is between 7,000 and 11,000 individuals. Due to habitat loss and degradation throughout the State of Florida, it has been estimated that the Florida scrub-jay population has been reduced by at least half in the last 100 years. Surveys have indicated that two families of Florida scrub-jays utilize habitat associated with the maintained right-of-way of Providence Boulevard on the Project site. Construction of the Project's infrastructure, widening of turn lanes and an entrance road will likely result in death of, or injury to, Florida scrub-jays incidental to the carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities. Habitat alteration associated with property development will reduce the availability of habitat used for feeding and shelter.

Historically, the eastern indigo snake occurred throughout Florida and into the coastal plain of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Georgia and Florida currently support the remaining, endemic populations of eastern indigo snake. Over most of its range, the eastern indigo snake frequents a diversity of habitat types such as pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, xeric sandhill communities, tropical hardwood hammocks, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, coastal dunes and human altered habitats. Due to its relatively large home range, this snake is especially vulnerable to habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. The wide distribution and territory size requirements of the eastern indigo snake makes evaluation of status and trends very difficult. Surveys for this species on site were negative, however the habitat is suitable. If any eastern indigo snakes are present, construction of the Project's infrastructure may result in their death or injury incidental to the carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities.

The EA considers the environmental consequences of two alternatives. The no action alternative may result in loss of habitat for Florida scrub-jays and eastern indigo snakes and exposure of the Applicant under section 9 of the Act. The proposed action alternative is issuance of the ITP with on-site mitigation. The on-site preservation alternative would restore and preserve 0.7 acre of unoccupied habitat adjacent to a 357 acre county-owned scrub habitat preserve. The affirmative conservation measures outlined in the HCP to be employed to offset the anticipated level of incidental take to the protected species are the following:

1. The impacts associated with the proposed project include 0.06 acre of temporary impacts to occupied scrub-jay habitat for the installation of an underground water line and 0.17 acre of permanent impacts associated with road widening and construction of turn lanes. To mitigate for the proposed impacts to occupied habitat the applicant will restore and preserve 0.7 acre of unoccupied scrub habitat. This amount is based on mitigation at a ratio of 3:1 (three acres restored for every one acre impacted). Management will be conducted on a regular basis by the City of Deltona Parks and Recreation Department. After initial habitat restoration of the 0.7 acre mitigation area, the property would then be set apart through an easement, requiring preservation and management for Florida scrub-jays and eastern indigo snakes into perpetuity.

2. No construction activities would occur within 150 feet of an active Florida scrub-jay nest during the nesting season.

3. The HCP provides a funding mechanism for these mitigation measures.

As stated above, the Service has made a preliminary determination that the issuance of the ITP is not a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the meaning of section 102(2)(C) of NEPA. This preliminary information may be revised due to public comment received in response to this notice and is based on information contained in the EA and HCP. An appropriate excerpt from the FONSI reflecting the Service's finding on the application is provided below:

Based on the analysis conducted by the Service, it has been determined that:

1. Issuance of an ITP would not have significant effects on the human environment in the project area.

2. The proposed take is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity.

3. The Applicant has ensured that adequate funding will be provided to implement the measures proposed in the submitted HCP.

4. Other than impacts to endangered and threatened species as outlined in the documentation of this decision, the indirect impacts which may result from issuance of the ITP are addressed by other regulations and statutes under the jurisdiction of other government entities. The validity of the Service's ITP is contingent upon the Applicant's compliance with the terms of the permit and all other laws and regulations under the control of State, local, and other Federal governmental entities.

The Service will also evaluate whether the issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP complies with section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation. The results of the biological opinion, in Start Printed Page 58159combination with the above findings, will be used in the final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the ITP.

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Dated: November 5, 2001.

H. Dale Hall,

Acting Regional Director.

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[FR Doc. 01-28911 Filed 11-19-01; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4310-55-P