Notice of availability of Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (DRAFT EIS/EIR) for public review and notice of public meeting

PROJECT TITLE: Fort Ord Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan

PROJECT LOCATION: Former Fort Ord, including areas within the Cities of Seaside, Marina,Monterey, and Del Rey Oaks and County of Monterey, California

CEQA Lead Agency: Fort Ord Reuse Authority

NEPA Lead Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Public Review Period: November 1, 2019 through December 16, 2019

Public Meeting: November 20, 2019, 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

A joint Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) has been prepared to analyze the effects of the Proposed Action, which is the issuance of Federal and State incidental take permits (ITPs) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Endangered Species Act, and by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) under Section 2081 of the California Fish and Game Code in compliance with the California Endangered Species Act. The issuance of the ITPs would authorize take of the eight State and Federally listed species identified in the Draft Fort Ord Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Draft HCP) during the course of the redevelopment of the former Fort Ord military base. The Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) and its member jurisdictions have prepared the Draft HCP as a required component of the application for the Federal ITP. The USFWS is acting as lead agency under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and FORA is acting as lead agency under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Notice is hereby given that FORA is seeking written comment on the Draft EIS/EIR on the Proposed Action in accordance with CEQA and NEPA. The 45-day public review period will begin on November 1, 2019 and end on December 16, 2019. This review period is established for the purpose of receiving written comments on the accuracy and adequacy of the Draft EIS/EIR together with other information relative to the environmental effects of the Proposed Action. The State Clearinghouse number for this Proposed Action is SCH#2005061119.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The Draft EIS/EIR analyzes the potential environmental effects of the adoption and implementation of the Draft HCP and the issuance of Federal and State ITPs, as well as a reasonable range of alternatives. The Draft HCP provides measures to mitigate and avoid/minimize impacts to eight Federal and State listed species within a 28,000-acre Plan Area. This is a comprehensive, base-wide plan that would provide conservation and management of sensitive species and their habitat. The Draft HCP was prepared to support the application for the Federal ITP. FORA is requesting a permit term of 50 years to authorize take of covered species associated with the covered activities described in the Draft HCP. -->>Read More


Habitat Conservation Plan Development

FORA has pursued completion of the Fort Ord Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) as the best basewide /holistic mechanism to implement the conservation elements of the Base Reuse Plan and the habitat protection requirements of the U.S. Army’s Habitat Management Plan. In FORA’s initial effort, FORA requested, and the U.S. Army agreed, that a combined 1996 Habitat Management Plan (HMP) Implementing/Management Agreement be presented alongside and in conjunction with the Army’s draft HMP.

Tree FrogThe Army subsequently elected to de-couple FORA’s effort from the HMP and received approval for its HMP in 1997. Because an HCP was required as part of the reuse process, FORA prepared a draft Fort Ord Multispecies HCP along its own track. Completing the HCP will allow U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) to issue Federal and State Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) related to listed species protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Such permits will enable jurisdictions to meet their HMP habitat management requirements and realize reuse of the former Fort Ord as envisioned in the 1997 Fort Ord Base Reuse Plan.

The HCP provides the framework for ensuring conservation of special status plant and animal species (HCP species) and the natural communities that support them on former Fort Ord. The HCP incorporates relevant information from the HMP, and would supersede the HMP as the primary conservation planning document for non-federal recipients of Fort Ord land. The protections in the HCP will ensure species viability in perpetuity.

The HCP can be coordinated by a Joint Powers Authority, dubbed the Fort Ord Regional Habitat Cooperative (Cooperative). The Cooperative would include: FORA, County of Monterey, City of Marina, City of Seaside, City of Del Rey Oaks, City of Monterey, California State Parks, University of California (UC), California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Marina Coast Water District, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Cooperative and its member responsibilities to the HCP base-wide ITPs, and ITPs conditions that the HCP must be properly implemented, ensures that the permit holders (permittees) will commit to implementing funding and mitigation obligations under the HCP.

FORA provided funding for the HCP preparation and has funded interim habitat management at the UC Fort Ord Natural Reserve (UC FONR). In addition, FORA has dedicated 30.2% of funds collected through its Community Facilities District (CFD) Special Tax/Development Fee to build the UC FONR and Cooperative Endowments. FORA expects to have set aside $17.8 million for habitat management byJune 30, 2020. Assuming CDFW certifies an endowment payout rate of 4.5% annually, it is estimated that $33.7 million will remain to fully fund the
endowments after 2020.

The HCP funding program is also based on annual Federal and State appropriations to BLM and California State Parks. State ITPs are linked to BLM activities and funding, while Federal ITPs are only linked to State and local HCP activities and funding. The Cooperative would control annual budget line item expenditures pertaining to duties assigned to the Cooperative. FORA would fund the Cooperative and UC FONR Endowments and startup costs using CFD Special Tax/ Development Fee collections. The current draft HCP includes a cost and funding chapter which provides planning-level cost estimates for HCP implementation and identifies funds to pay for implementation.

Significant work accomplished recently:
• FORA and its consultants made revisions and prepared an additional screen check draft HCP distributed for Wildlife agencies and permittees’ review in July 2017.
• CDFW submitted their outstanding comments in June 2018.
• USFWS Solicitor’s office and regional office submitted comments on the pre-public draft HCP in November 2018 and the pre-public draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) in April 2019 (USFWS is project lead under National Environmental Protection Act.)
• FORA and its consultants made final revisions and completed the Public Review Draft HCP in June 2019.
• Denise Duffy & Associates has been making final revisions and preparing the Public Review Draft EIS/EIR with an anticipated completion in July 2019.

The HCP is expected to be released for public review in 2019. Given FORA’s expected transition in 2020, this important project will have to be resolved in the near future, or otherwise re-envisioned.