On December 23, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a notice of availability and request for public comment in the Federal Register with respect to the draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/S) for the City of San Diego Vernal Pool Habitat Conservation Plan (VPHCP). Comments are due by February 21, 2017. The species covered by the VPHCP were previously covered by the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program, but the portion of that Plan providing coverage for vernal pool species was struck down by the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. Center for Biological Diversity v. Bartel, 470 F. Supp. 2d 1118 (2006).
The Federal Register notice explains that “[t]he purpose of issuing an ITP to the City would be to permit incidental take of the covered species resulting from local development authorized by the City and conditioned on the City’s minimization and mitigation of the impacts of such take in accordance with an approved VPHCP.” The alternatives to issuance of an incidental take permit being considered in the EIR/S are no action (i.e., not issuing the permit) and an expanded conservation alternative that provides greater benefits for the covered species. The covered species are the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis), Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus woottoni), San Diego button celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii), spreading navarretia (Navarretia fossalis), San Diego mesa mint (Pogogyne abramsii), California Orcutt grass (Orcuttia californica), and Otay mesa mint (Pogogyne nudiuscula).