Stewardship

Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan

November 20, 2019

The Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC) has prepared a document addressing recent statements and questions related to the Habitat Conservation Plan and other conservation initiatives.

STATEMENT
Some have alleged that irrigators want the public to be distracted by what they term a false dichotomy of “frogs versus farmers,” when instead, in their view, the “real” choice is a healthy river system and efficient irrigators versus waste. This point of view relies on the asserted premise that there is currently enough water in the system to take care of the needs of both the species and “efficient irrigators” if Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) would just stop wasting water and allow water sharing.

RESPONSE
The premise for this viewpoint is seriously flawed. First, it assumes that COID patrons are wasting water. This is false. While the technology around water use will always improve over time, just because a landowner has not purchased and implemented the latest state-of-the-art technology, it doesn’t mean that they are wasting water. They’re still putting water to beneficial use, just as they’ve done for the last 100 years.

Second, the viewpoint is flawed because it assumes COID is responsible for its patrons’ water use efficiency, and that COID can somehow force its patrons to become more efficient. State law doesn’t give irrigation districts the authority to do this. At the same time, however, state law does enable COID to make its overall delivery system more efficient.

Third, the viewpoint is flawed because it assumes there is currently enough water in the system for COID, North Unit Irrigation District (NUID), and fish and wildlife. There’s simply not, without large scale piping projects by the districts, which can be combined with voluntary efforts by landowners who undertake on-farm improvements.

And finally, the viewpoint incorrectly assumes COID is not allowing sharing. That’s also false. COID currently delivers an average of 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water (conserved by COID through previous piping projects) through the Pilot Butte Canal and to the North Unit Main Canal.

COID is currently working with the Deschutes River Conservancy, Summit Conservation, and AMP Insights on a water marketing program. The pilot project would allow water right sharing between water users. The goal of the pilot project is an additional 5 cfs during the 2020 irrigation season, with a total goal of delivering 50 cfs through water sharing and on-farm programs. The program, which is expected to launch in 2020, is being funded through a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation WaterSmart grant.

STATEMENT
Critics allege the irrigation district conservation plans are flawed in relying on “expensive big piping” to reduce water use when “far cheaper approaches” are available such as piping private ditches, eliminating flood irrigation, and offering incentives to use less water.

RESPONSE
The districts are employing a variety of conservation tools including:

• Transfers: Permanent transfers of water rights off the land generate improved water supply for farmers, cities, and the Deschutes River.

• Leases: Temporary transfers (usually one year) of water rights off the land generate improved water supply for farmers, cities, and the Deschutes River.

• Sharing: Water agreements between districts facilitate water conservation measures and improve reliability.

• Piping: Piping outdated canals, which can leak up to 50% of their water during transmission, allows landowners and the Deschutes River to capture an abundance of water.

• Reservoir Management: Better allocation of stored water addresses district water supply and streamflow needs.

• On-farm Improvements: Districts are working with landowners to implement voluntary conservation measures.

The districts are focused on updating the antiquated irrigation infrastructure in a way that does the most good for farmers, the community, and the environment. Many of the districts are stuck with wildly inefficient systems that were built over 100 years ago. Due to their design, it’s estimated that up to 50% of all irrigation water in unimproved systems is lost before it ever makes it to the farm. By replacing leaky, open canals with closed pipes, districts can help farmers do much more with less. Water saved from seepage below and evaporation above can now go to the farm or stay in the river to help support wildlife conservation, while the gravity-pressured water eliminates the need for farmers to maintain costly pumps in many situations.

In 2017, COID completed a thorough analysis of on-farm as well as private lateral water loss inefficiencies. The study showed that with a substantial investment, there is certainly the potential for significant water savings from on-farm improvements.

At the same time, the cost to convert COID-owned canals to fully pressurized systems costs about the same as converting less-efficient farming practices, but would save almost twice the water lost to seepage.

In order to achieve the on-farm efficiencies with the current canal system, farmers currently using flood irrigation would need to buy irrigation systems, install electricity, and pay energy costs. It is important to note on-farm improvements are voluntarily conservation measures by landowners and not something the districts can control or mandate.

As an example, once COID is piped and pressurized, the cost to farmers converting from flood irrigation to more efficient irrigation practices will decrease by 50%. When pressurized service is available, farmers will have a strong incentive to convert less-efficient systems and pipe private lateral lines to maximize the benefits of efficient water deliveries.

STATEMENT
It has been suggested by some that the irrigation districts aren’t working together to encourage conservation.

RESPONSE
The districts are partnering together using a collaborative, scalable, and thoughtful approach to conservation. The districts are working together and have been successful in securing large-scale investments needed to make a difference. The districts are committed to ensuring the improvements benefit everyone, including rivers, fish, and frogs.

On December 7, 2017, COID and NUID entered into a water sharing agreement. The agreement outlines the districts’ commitment to incorporate all the tools at their disposal to share water, allowing NUID to leave more water in the river during the winter.

COID’s conservation measures will generate a more reliable water supply for NUID. NUID will then be able to make water available from its storage in Wickiup Reservoir to increase winter flows in the Upper Deschutes River.

It’s important to note that district improvements and conservation measures would not be progressing as efficiently nor as quickly without the committed cooperation of multiple public and private entities.

STATEMENT
It has been suggested that family farmers of NUID should be prioritized to receive irrigation over COID landowners due to the assumption that COID landowners don’t utilize the water in a productive fashion.

RESPONSE
When it comes to water use, Oregon state law does not favor certain crops over others or favor a particular kind of farming operation over another. State law also does not dictate that a water user must generate a certain amount of income from his or her water use.

Whether a landowner is growing industrial hemp, carrot seed, or a hay crop, so long as irrigation water is used to grow a crop, the districts do not have the legal authority to make value judgments around whether the use of water by particular landowners are sufficiently productive.

This is not an issue for the districts or critics to decide. This is also why incentive-based programs are important, as these programs can help to encourage users to make choices in favor of conservation.

STATEMENT
There is confusion regarding COID’s instream lease program, with some commenting that COID doesn’t allow its patrons to lease water to instream use for the benefit of the Deschutes River.

RESPONSE
COID’s robust instream leasing program allows patrons to lease all or a portion of the water right appurtenant to their land, in lieu of irrigating, for a one or three-year period. Instream leases are a critical component of the district’s water marketing program. On occasion, a request to lease may be denied for operational reasons or if a water right does not meet the Oregon Water Resource Department’s leasing criteria. Learn more about instream leasing: https://www.oregon.gov/OWRD/programs/WaterRights/IS/IL/Pages/default.aspx

STATEMENT
Some have alleged the DBBC’s approach set forth in the proposed Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is misplaced, by failing to create stronger incentives for the conservation of on-farm water.

RESPONSE
The HCP is a voluntary, applicant-driven process to allow the irrigation districts in the Deschutes Basin to continue their otherwise legal operations in light of Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species located in the vicinity of the districts’ delivery systems. It’s the districts’ responsibility, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, to determine how to meet the needs of the ESA listed species in light of the districts’ legal obligations to deliver water to their patrons. The HCP is not intended to be a tool to fix the entire Deschutes River system. Rather, it is a mitigation plan to allow the districts to continue their operations and is simply one tool in a multi-tool toolbox. The districts’ HCP in no way prevents others from addressing their own ESA liabilities, or from developing other means for making improvements to the river system.

STATEMENT
It has been alleged that COID’s primary objective for piping canals is to generate revenue with hydroelectric projects. There is a belief that such hydroelectric projects create a disincentive for on-farm water conservation because more water saved means diminished hydropower revenues.

RESPONSE
COID is not planning to construct new hydroelectric project facilities at this time. In 2019, COID’s board of directors voted that providing pressurized water to COID’s patrons is a key priority. This decision lessens COID’s hydropower opportunities.

In the current 30% design for COID’s delivery system improvements, there are four areas that will need to have pressure reducing valves. These areas could be replaced with hydroelectric project facilities; however, COID is not pursuing hydropower at this time due to a lack of viable contracts for the sale of the power that could be generated.

STATEMENT
Critics are alleging the proposed HCP stream flows in the Deschutes River and its tributaries are not adequate for the protected species.

RESPONSE
While the HCP targets are set at specific flow levels to be achieved at specific intervals, the districts will be putting water into the Deschutes River as soon as their piping projects are completed. For example, the Smith Rock King Way project on the Pilot Butte Canal will conserve 30 cfs. Upon completion of the project, COID and NUID will increase instream flows accordingly.

STATEMENT
Some have asserted that the HCP is flawed because it doesn’t show “how” river flows will be provided. Underlying this assertion is a concern that COID is not adequately participating in efforts to increase instream flows for fish and frogs to those specific levels that will be required if the proposed HCP is approved.

RESPONSE
COID has agreed to share in the obligations imposed by the HCP on all of the districts, by agreeing to implement conservation projects and pursue various water marketing opportunities. This is clearly stated in the District to District agreement signed in 2017 by COID and NUID. Meanwhile, the HCP itself is not intended to be a prescriptive agreement. To meet the goals and objectives set forth in the HCP, the districts will work together to conserve and manage flows for the benefit of the entire community.

STATEMENT
Some have claimed the proposed HCP would excuse the districts from having to make adjustments to the use of river water, beyond those in their plan, for the benefit of ESA listed species for 30 years, even if climate change impacts during that time period further imperil the survival of the species.

RESPONSE
The HCP does not “excuse” the districts from future adjustments, as the HCP contains elements to address both climate change and “changed circumstances.”


HCP FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

October 14, 2019

What is a Habitat Conservation Plan?

A habitat conservation plan (HCP) is a voluntary method pursuant to which a non-Federal entity may comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As laid out in section 10 of the ESA, an HCP enables the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to issue permits to allow non-Federal entities to carry out otherwise legal activities that may have an impact on species that are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. A plan is usually built around conservation measures that will be implemented over the life of the permits. HCPs can apply to both listed and nonlisted species, including those that are candidates or have been proposed for listing. Conserving species before they are in danger of extinction or are likely to become so can also provide early benefits and prevent the need for listing.

What is an incidental take permit?

The Endangered Species Act prohibits the “take” of listed species through harm or habitat destruction. In the 1982 ESA amendments, Congress authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) to issue permits for the “incidental take” of endangered and threatened wildlife species (see Section 10a(1)(B) of the ESA). Thus, permit holders can proceed with an activity that is legal in all other respects, but that results in the “incidental” taking of a listed species.

Who needs an incidental take permit?

Anyone whose otherwise-lawful activities will result in the “incidental take” of a listed wildlife species needs a permit.

What is Section 7?

To issue an incidental take permit, the Services must comply with Section 7 of the ESA, which requires Federal agencies to ensure that their activities are “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species of threatened species” or result in the destruction of a species’ critical habitat. Federal agencies must consult regarding any activity that may impact listed species. The issuance of incidental take permits and approval of an HCP requires that the Services conduct formal consultation and draft Biological Opinions regarding the incidental take permits’ potential impact on all listed species, candidate species, and critical habitat for those species.

 What species are covered by the HCP?

The habitat conservation plan proposes to include three Federally listed threatened species: the Oregon spotted frog, bull trout, and steelhead, and two species not currently listed under the ESA: sockeye salmon and spring Chinook salmon.

Why are the City of Prineville and the Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC) developing an HCP?

The DBBC, which includes the eight irrigation districts that have developed the proposed HCP, and the City of Prineville, are supportive of water planning efforts in the basin to address long-term water and habitat needs.

In the Deschutes Basin, irrigation districts and the City have long been charged with the management of water in the basin, including the storage and delivery of water. This water management may have an effect on the Oregon spotted frog, bull trout, and steelhead, which are all listed as threatened under the ESA. The conservation measures in the HCP are designed to minimize and mitigate impacts to species listed under the ESA, where such impacts may result from the storage, release, diversion, and return of irrigation water by the districts and City of Prineville. The districts and City of Prineville are focused on the conservation measures set forth in their proposed HCP, and those measures will be the priorities for the immediate future.

Does the HCP address all water issues in the Deschutes Basin?

While the HCP encompasses multiple water storage reservoirs owned or operated by the districts and many stream miles through which water is transported, the HCP is narrowly tailored to cover only the district and City activities that may affect the listed species. The HCP does not and is not intended to address the actions of cities other than Prineville, local agencies, private parties, or Federal entities that may also affect listed species. The HCP does not and is not intended to address all water issues in the Deschutes Basin. Instead, the focus is on the three listed species, and two species not currently listed under the ESA, and the focus is only on the activities of the districts and the City that may affect these species. 

What happens once the HCP is approved?

Once approved, the districts and City of Prineville will begin the implementation of the HCP.

Initiated in 2009, the Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (DBHCP) is a plan that will be used by the City of Prineville and the eight Irrigation District members of the DBBC to meet their current and future water needs while enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. The City and Districts determined they would produce a more comprehensive Plan by working together rather than individually. You can read an update on the plan by clicking on the image below.


HABITAT CONSERVATION PLAN UPDATE

September 11, 2019

 

The eight irrigation districts that serve Central Oregon and the City of Prineville have committed over a decade to working with local municipalities, state and federal agencies, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and non-governmental organizations to improve our collective irrigation network in a way that better serves our community, conserves water, and improves fish and wildlife habitat.

Competing demands for water in the Deschutes Basin is a difficult issue that dozens of groups have spent years trying to solve. The solution to this issue is not a quick fix or something that can be done overnight.

The Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) represents the best way to ensure productive, long-term results, on a schedule intended to keep agriculture producers in our region solvent. The purpose of the HCP is not to solve all the water issues in the Deschutes Basin. Rather, conservation measures in the HCP are designed to minimize and mitigate impacts to species listed under the Endangered Species Act, where such impacts may result from the storage, release, diversion, and return of irrigation water by the Districts and City of Prineville. Our efforts have been inclusive and science-based, and we are committed to implementing long-term solutions that not only address the needs of listed species but also benefit our region’s farmers and communities.

By piping open irrigation canals, promoting on-farm conservation by patrons (piping private deliveries, converting to sprinklers), and entering temporary instream leases, we have the opportunity to conserve millions of gallons of water each year. These projects will allow for the continued increase in winter flows in the Upper Deschutes River, improving fish and wildlife habitat. 

Over the next five years, the districts are expected to pipe more than 400,000 feet of open canals across Central Oregon, to the tune of nearly 94 cubic feet per second in water savings.  These conservation initiatives will help the Districts and City of Prineville:

  • Increase water reliability for farmers and fish
  • Improve fish and wildlife habitat
  • Decrease energy costs
  • Reduce operation and maintenance costs
  • Achieve system-wide results in a short period of time

In addition to the HCP, several other initiatives are underway to improve the ecological health of the Upper Deschutes River, including a water marketing grant program and the formation of the Deschutes Basin Water Collaboration.  This consensus-based entity will include representatives from irrigation, instream, and municipal interests, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and will focus on addressing water imbalances in our basin.


DBBC HCP Update Spring 2019

 

 

 

dbbcirrigation.com/…/DBBC-HCP-Update_May-2019-2.pdf

HCP FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

October 14, 2019

What is a Habitat Conservation Plan?

A habitat conservation plan (HCP) is a voluntary method pursuant to which a non-Federal entity may comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As laid out in section 10 of the ESA, an HCP enables the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to issue permits to allow non-Federal entities to carry out otherwise legal activities that may have an impact on species that are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. A plan is usually built around conservation measures that will be implemented over the life of the permits. HCPs can apply to both listed and nonlisted species, including those that are candidates or have been proposed for listing. Conserving species before they are in danger of extinction or are likely to become so can also provide early benefits and prevent the need for listing.

What is an incidental take permit?

The Endangered Species Act prohibits the “take” of listed species through harm or habitat destruction. In the 1982 ESA amendments, Congress authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) to issue permits for the “incidental take” of endangered and threatened wildlife species (see Section 10a(1)(B) of the ESA). Thus, permit holders can proceed with an activity that is legal in all other respects, but that results in the “incidental” taking of a listed species.

Who needs an incidental take permit?

Anyone whose otherwise-lawful activities will result in the “incidental take” of a listed wildlife species needs a permit.

What is Section 7?

To issue an incidental take permit, the Services must comply with Section 7 of the ESA, which requires Federal agencies to ensure that their activities are “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species of threatened species” or result in the destruction of a species’ critical habitat. Federal agencies must consult regarding any activity that may impact listed species. The issuance of incidental take permits and approval of an HCP requires that the Services conduct formal consultation and draft Biological Opinions regarding the incidental take permits’ potential impact on all listed species, candidate species, and critical habitat for those species.

 What species are covered by the HCP?

The habitat conservation plan proposes to include three Federally listed threatened species: the Oregon spotted frog, bull trout, and steelhead, and two species not currently listed under the ESA: sockeye salmon and spring Chinook salmon.

Why are the City of Prineville and the Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC) developing an HCP?

The DBBC, which includes the eight irrigation districts that have developed the proposed HCP, and the City of Prineville, are supportive of water planning efforts in the basin to address long-term water and habitat needs.

In the Deschutes Basin, irrigation districts and the City have long been charged with the management of water in the basin, including the storage and delivery of water. This water management may have an effect on the Oregon spotted frog, bull trout, and steelhead, which are all listed as threatened under the ESA. The conservation measures in the HCP are designed to minimize and mitigate impacts to species listed under the ESA, where such impacts may result from the storage, release, diversion, and return of irrigation water by the districts and City of Prineville. The districts and City of Prineville are focused on the conservation measures set forth in their proposed HCP, and those measures will be the priorities for the immediate future.

Does the HCP address all water issues in the Deschutes Basin?

While the HCP encompasses multiple water storage reservoirs owned or operated by the districts and many stream miles through which water is transported, the HCP is narrowly tailored to cover only the district and City activities that may affect the listed species. The HCP does not and is not intended to address the actions of cities other than Prineville, local agencies, private parties, or Federal entities that may also affect listed species. The HCP does not and is not intended to address all water issues in the Deschutes Basin. Instead, the focus is on the three listed species, and two species not currently listed under the ESA, and the focus is only on the activities of the districts and the City that may affect these species. 

What happens once the HCP is approved?

Once approved, the districts and City of Prineville will begin the implementation of the HCP.

Initiated in 2009, the Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (DBHCP) is a plan that will be used by the City of Prineville and the eight Irrigation District members of the DBBC to meet their current and future water needs while enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. The City and Districts determined they would produce a more comprehensive Plan by working together rather than individually. You can read an update on the plan by clicking on the image below.


HABITAT CONSERVATION PLAN UPDATE

September 11, 2019

 

The eight irrigation districts that serve Central Oregon and the City of Prineville have committed over a decade to working with local municipalities, state and federal agencies, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and non-governmental organizations to improve our collective irrigation network in a way that better serves our community, conserves water, and improves fish and wildlife habitat.

Competing demands for water in the Deschutes Basin is a difficult issue that dozens of groups have spent years trying to solve. The solution to this issue is not a quick fix or something that can be done overnight.

The Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) represents the best way to ensure productive, long-term results, on a schedule intended to keep agriculture producers in our region solvent. The purpose of the HCP is not to solve all the water issues in the Deschutes Basin. Rather, conservation measures in the HCP are designed to minimize and mitigate impacts to species listed under the Endangered Species Act, where such impacts may result from the storage, release, diversion, and return of irrigation water by the Districts and City of Prineville. Our efforts have been inclusive and science-based, and we are committed to implementing long-term solutions that not only address the needs of listed species but also benefit our region’s farmers and communities.

By piping open irrigation canals, promoting on-farm conservation by patrons (piping private deliveries, converting to sprinklers), and entering temporary instream leases, we have the opportunity to conserve millions of gallons of water each year. These projects will allow for the continued increase in winter flows in the Upper Deschutes River, improving fish and wildlife habitat. 

Over the next five years, the districts are expected to pipe more than 400,000 feet of open canals across Central Oregon, to the tune of nearly 94 cubic feet per second in water savings.  These conservation initiatives will help the Districts and City of Prineville:

  • Increase water reliability for farmers and fish
  • Improve fish and wildlife habitat
  • Decrease energy costs
  • Reduce operation and maintenance costs
  • Achieve system-wide results in a short period of time

In addition to the HCP, several other initiatives are underway to improve the ecological health of the Upper Deschutes River, including a water marketing grant program and the formation of the Deschutes Basin Water Collaboration.  This consensus-based entity will include representatives from irrigation, instream, and municipal interests, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and will focus on addressing water imbalances in our basin.


DBBC HCP Update Spring 2019

 

 

 

 

 

dbbcirrigation.com/…/DBBC-HCP-Update_May-2019-2.pdf

Shon RaeDeschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan
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