The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday announced the completion of the Deschutes River Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), a complex blueprint for regional water use designed to protect endangered species.
“This plan will provide long-term water certainty for people, farms, and wildlife in central Oregon,” said Jodie Delavan, acting public affairs officer for the USFWS – Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. “The HCP has been a major, 12-year collaboration among a large group of stakeholders – irrigators, municipalities, recreationists, federal and state agencies, and Tribes.”
The HCP delivers predictability to water managers by providing certainty on water storage, release, diversion, and return for the next 30 years.
It accomplishes this through a combination of adjusted water management practices, increased funding for conservation projects and in-stream leasing programs, more gradual ramping up and down of the irrigation season releases, support for on-farm water conservation and maintenance of fish screens — all to better align water management operations with the life-history needs of covered species including Oregon spotted frogs and red band trout.
It went through a year-long public comment period as well.
Habitat Conservation Plans are voluntary agreements between the Service and landowners, private companies, or other non-federal entities that ensure harmful effects to threatened and endangered species are avoided, minimized, or offset, according to the USFWS.
The HCP is a collaborative strategy to share water resources in the Deschutes Basin, covering irrigation and related water management operations while enhancing fish and wildlife habitat.
The Deschutes River Basin HCP encompasses about 10,500 square miles.
Bounded by the Cascades Mountains on the west, the Ochoco Mountains on the east, and the Columbia River to the north, the Deschutes River Basin includes six major tributaries above Lake Billy Chinook.
You can learn much more about the plan and its impacts in our previous, in-depth coverage on The Great Outdoors.