Habitat Conservation Plan Q & A

Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (DBHCP). Intiated in 2008, is a multi-species plan that will assist the City and the Irrigation District members of the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, in meeting their current and future water needs while enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. Twenty stakeholders, including state and federal agencies, the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs, Portland General Electric (PGE), and conservation groups, are participating in the development of this initiative. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has provided significant funding for the effort, with additional assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and PGE.


What is an HCP?
        It is a Plan presented to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that is intended to minimize and mitigate impacts to federally listed species.  The Plan will be designed to protect, restore, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat throughout the Deschutes Basin. The HCP will cover several species in the Basin listed as “threatened” or that are proposed for listing under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) that may be affected by traditional and routine District activities.  These species include the Oregon spotted frog, reintroduced mid-Columbia River steelhead, and several others.

Who is developing the Deschutes Basin HCP?  
        The Applicants are the Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC) and the City of Prineville.  The DBBC includes COID, North Unit, Swalley, Arnold, and Tumalo Irrigation Districts on the Deschutes River; Three Sisters Irrigation District on Whychus Creek; and Ochoco and North Unit Irrigation Districts on the Crooked River, and Lone Pine Irrigation District.  The Districts and City determined they would produce a more comprehensive and defensible HCP by working together rather than individually.

What will we get for developing an HCP?
        The Applicants’ goal is to receive Incidental Take Permits (Permits) from FWS and NMFS.  These Permits will allow the Applicants to continue their routine and lawful activities without penalties.  The Applicants are requesting Permits that cover their activities for 50 years upon issuance.  

Why does the District need Permits?
        Without Permits, the District may be subject to penalties if it were determined to have caused the “take” of a listed species.  The ESA provides for civil penalties of up to $25,000 per each violation of the Act (i.e., each instance of take), as well as criminal penalties, which include up to $50,000 and one-year imprisonment, for each violation of the Act. Without Permits, the District’s storage and releases of water from Crane Prairie and diversions from the Deschutes River could be much more closely regulated, reducing deliveries or even curtailing them completely.

What steps will the Districts consider to improve species habitat as part of the HCP?
        Conservation projects that return conserved water back to the Deschutes River.  Projects may include piping Districts canals and laterals as funding is secured. On-farm conservation by patrons, including piping private deliveries, converting to sprinklers, and improving current water systems. Winter releases of stored water from Reservoirs. Restoration of off-channel habitat for Oregon spotted frogs. Temporary Instream Leases.

Who are the other stakeholders involved in the development of the HCP?
        There are 20 stakeholders who are participating in the HCP, including FWS, NMFS, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Water Resources, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Portland General Electric, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, the Deschutes River Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and others.


How does the environmental fee I pay in my annual assessment benefit me personally?
        Every Swalley patron will benefit from the HCP process and the Permits.  Without Permits, Swalley diversions may be further regulated, reducing the amount of water we can deliver to your headgate.  Spreading the expense equally between all patrons is fair and reasonable. Our conservation measures, and those of the other districts and the City of Prineville, will improve fish and wildlife habitat in the Deschutes Basin.

How will my contribution to the HCP be used?
        It will continue to fund Swalley’s cost-share of the HCP as we continue to work with FWS and NMFS toward the issuance of Permits and throughout the implementation of the Permits. Support conservation and modernization measures within Swalley. Improve listed species habitat. Conservation education for Swalley patrons. Potential cost-sharing of on-farm improvements and private laterals.

Will I still get all of the water I’m currently entitled to receive?
        As conservation occurs, the amount of “carry” water in the system will be reduced.  A piped system has none-to-very little loss, so it takes less water to “carry” a water delivery through the system and get the water to your headgate.  Swalley’s proposed conservation and modernization measures are not intended to result in reduced deliveries to any patron.  Additionally, improved private ditches and on-farm efficiencies will also assure you have enough water for your crops/livestock/yards.

Why is Swalley responsible for fish and wildlife habitat?
        Swalley diverts water from the Deschutes River, which provides habitat for many species.  Our diversion may potentially affect this habitat.  

How does the HCP benefit me, as a water user?
        The HCP process and resulting Permits will allow Swalley to continue to divert water from the Deschutes River, and deliver water to your headgate.  The Permits will provide legal protection if an incidental “take” were to occur as a result of these and other District activities.

Why does the HCP cost so much?
        The Applicants hired a professionally trained biologist and other supporting professionals to conduct scientific studies needed to determine what potential effects the Applicants’ current and proposed activities may have on protected species, prepare the HCP document, and work with the various stakeholders throughout the process. The Applicants hired an attorney to address the many legal issues in the HCP process, and to assist the Applicants in discussions with FWS, NMFS, and others.

I get my water from a Swalley subsidiary (Avion, Chapporall, etc), or my water is delivered by COID.  Does this process still apply to me?
        Yes.  Your water is delivered pursuant to the Swalley water right certificate, even if it is delivered by another entity.  The water is diverted from the Deschutes River and conveyed through Swalley owned infrastructure to the subsidiary point of delivery.  All water diverted from the Deschutes River may potentially impact the subject species, and therefore, the Permits will benefit everyone.

Are other irrigation districts in the Basin charging an add-on fee for the HCP?
        Yes, most of them currently have a fee in place, or their Boards are planning to implement a fee.