Feds move to delist elderberry beetle
To submit comments on delisting the elderberry longhorn beetle from endangered status, go to www.regulations.gov under Docket Number FW-R8-ES-2011-0063, or by mail at Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2011-0063, Division of Policy and Directives Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203.
Yuba-Sutter flood control agencies could be among the beneficiaries as the federal government begins the process of removing the elderberry longhorn beetle from endangered species status.
Because levee improvements and maintenance often involve potential habitat for the beetle, there would be a savings of both time and money if the delisting goes through, said Mike Inamine, executive director for the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency.
"In the long term, arguably, the greater benefit is the effect on maintenance and operations cost," said Inamine, whose agency has just begun talks with the US Fish and Wildlife Service about how to mitigate for elderberry beetles.
Under the delisting noticed published Tuesday in the Federal Register, the public will have until Dec. 3 to comment.
Fish and Wildlife officials are particularly interested in feedback on location-specific information on past, present and future losses of potential habitat; potential impacts from predators; and documentation of the effectiveness of current mitigation.
Robert Moler, a spokesman for the service's Sacramento office, said those public comments will be considered alongside expert opinions from three independent specialists.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the service has a year to publish a final rule on delisting, though the period can be extended under some circumstances, Moler said.
The principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which both petitioned and sued Fish and Wildlife over the elderberry longhorn beetle, said his clients welcome the delisting announcement, even if it is overdue.
In 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife Service's own research suggested the beetle should be removed from endangered status, which it has had since the 1980s, said foundation attorney Damien Schiff.
"I can't see why the status of the beetle would be materially worse now than in 2006," Schiff said, adding he believes pressure from Pacific Legal compelled Fish and Wildlife to begin delisting.
Moler said he couldn't comment on litigation, but the petition was a factor in the process.
"The fact persists that there's much greater range than was known before," he said. "And there has been significant recovery effort."
Schiff said the petitioners included flood-control agencies, including Levee District 1 in Yuba City and Reclamation District 784 in Arboga because there's real economic impact from elderberry beetle mitigation.
The lawsuit they and others filed in federal court in Sacramento last year was settled in June. It required Fish and Wildlife to submit to the Federal Register by Sept. 28 a response to the September 2010 petition to delist the beetle.
LD1 officials have said mitigation for a new setback levee on Star Bend cost an additional $387,000.
Inamine said the costs are relatively small in the overall scope of levee improvement projects. Repairing 44 miles of levees in Sutter and Butte counties has an estimated price tag of $312 million.
It's also not clear if the delisting would go into effect in time to play a role in levee work set to start next year, he said.