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Lower Santa Ynez River Fish Management Plan and Cachuma Project Biological Opinion for Southern Steelhead Trout, Santa Barbara County, California

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Bureau of Reclamation, Interior.


Notice of availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR).


In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) has prepared a Final EIS/EIR for the “Lower Santa Ynez River Fish Management Plan (Plan) and Cachuma Project Biological Opinion (Opinion) for Southern Steelhead Trout.” The actions evaluated include various flow and non-flow measures to be implemented by Reclamation and the Cachuma Project Member Units to protect and enhance habitat for the endangered southern steelhead trout along the Santa Ynez River downstream of Bradbury Dam.

Notice of the Draft EIS/EIR was published in the Federal Register on July 24, 2003 (68 FR 43748). The written comment period ended September 30, 2003. The Final EIS/EIR contains responses to all comments received and changes made to the text of the Draft EIS/EIR as a result of those comments.


Reclamation will not make a decision on the proposed action until 30 days after release of the Final EIS/EIR. After the 30-day waiting period, Reclamation will complete a Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD will state the action that will be implemented and will discuss all factors leading to the decision.


Copies of the Final EIS/EIR for the Plan and Opinion are available at the Bureau of Reclamation, South-Central California Area Field Office, 1243 N Street, Fresno, California, 93721; or at the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board Office, 3301 Laurel Canyon Road, Santa Barbara, California, 93105, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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David Young, Bureau of Reclamation, South-Central California Area Office, telephoned 559-487-5127.

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The Cachuma Project consists of Bradbury Dam, Cachuma Lake, and various water conveyance facilities. The dam impounds water along the Santa Ynez River in northern Santa Barbara County. Water is provided to the Cachuma Project Member Units for irrigation, domestic, and municipal and industrial water uses. The current Member Units consist of the City of Santa Barbara, Goleta Water District, Montecito Water District, Carpinteria Valley Water District, and the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District—Improvement District #1. Reclamation owns all project facilities and operates Bradbury Dam. Operation and maintenance of the Cachuma Project facilities, other than Bradbury Dam, was transferred in 1956 to the Member Units who formed Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board (COMB) to carry out these responsibilities.

In August 1997, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) designated the anadromous steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) of the Southern Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU), which includes the lower Santa Ynez River below Bradbury Dam, as an endangered species under the Federal Endangered Species Act. In April 1999, Reclamation requested initiation of consultation with NMFS regarding ongoing operations of the Cachuma Project under the provisions of Section 7 of the Federal Endangered Species Act. Reclamation submitted a Biological Assessment (BA) to NMFS in 1999, describing the proposed operation of the Cachuma Project, as well as measures designed to improve the availability and quality of habitat for the steelhead in the lower river. NMFS issued a final Opinion in September 2000. The Opinion concluded that the proposed actions described in the BA would not jeopardize the continued existence of the anadromous steelhead of the Southern ESU, nor destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The Opinion included an incidental take statement with mandatory terms and conditions to minimize “take” of the southern steelhead.

Prior to, and concurrent with, the endangered species consultation, Reclamation and the Cachuma Member Units prepared a Fish Management Plan (FMP) for the lower Santa Ynez River. The FMP management actions include (1) creating new habitat and improving existing habitat in the lower river and tributaries; (2) improving access to spawning and rearing habitats in the lower river and tributaries; and (3) increasing public awareness and support for beneficial actions on private lands. The FMP identifies specific reaches of the mainstem and tributaries for habitat protection and improvement. The highest priority has been assigned to lower Hilton Creek, which is located on Reclamation property, and the mainstem of the river between Bradbury Dam and Highway 154. A high priority is also assigned to enhancing habitats on the following tributaries which have favorable flows and habitat conditions for aquatic resources: Quiota, El Jaro, and Salsipuedes creeks.

The overall purposes of the management actions are two-fold: (1) Ensure that operation of the Cachuma Project is consistent with the Federal Endangered Species Act regarding effects on the southern steelhead; and (2) improve conditions for native fish, particularly the endangered southern steelhead, in the Santa Ynez River watershed below Bradbury Dam.

Reclamation and Cachuma COMB have prepared the Final EIS/EIR to evaluate the incidental adverse impacts of the proposed management actions and projects to improve fish habitat conditions on the Santa Ynez River below Bradbury Dam in northern Santa Barbara County. These impacts include temporary construction-related disturbances to riparian and aquatic habitat during fish habitat restoration work in the river and tributaries; impacts to oak trees and recreational facilities at Cachuma Lake due to Start Printed Page 23213surcharging the reservoir to store additional water for downstream releases for fish; and others described in the Final EIS/EIR.

Our practice is to make comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review. Individual respondents may request that we withhold their home address from public disclosure, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which we would withhold a respondent's identity from public disclosure, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment. We will make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available for public disclosure in their entirety.

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Dated: April 6, 2004.

Susan L. Ramos,

Assistant Regional Director, Mid-Pacific Region.

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[FR Doc. 04-9638 Filed 4-27-04; 8:45 am]