Guidelines for Reviewers of the Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan and
Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Deschutes Basin Board of Control and City of Prineville
The Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (DBHCP) was prepared by the eight irrigation districts of the Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC) and the City of Prineville (City) to support our application for incidental take permits from US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The permits are necessary for the DBBC Districts and the City to continue their storage, release, diversion and return of water from the Deschutes River and its tributaries without the threat of prosecution for the incidental harm of fish and wildlife species listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
- The DBHCP is our document and it represents our proposal to minimize and mitigate the impacts of our activities on covered fish and wildlife species.
- We have spent the past 10 years developing the DBHCP in collaboration with USFWS, NMFS and multiple other parties in the Basin. We firmly believe it represents the appropriate types and amounts of mitigation.
- Public comments on the types and amounts of mitigation at this stage in the process will not be particularly helpful. After 10 years of negotiation and development, no alternative has been overlooked or dismissed without being evaluated in detail and determined infeasible. While it may be tempting for reviewers to suggest alternative mitigation or different amounts of mitigation, it is unlikely such comments will identify viable alternatives to the current proposal that have not already been considered.
- That being said, it will be important for individuals and organizations that will be affected by the DBHCP, such as cities, counties and individual farmers, to point out any impacts the DBHCP will have on them. We anticipate that opponents to the issuance of incidental take permits will comment that more mitigation is needed. At the same time, USFWS and NMFS need to hear about the implications of requiring more mitigation directly from those who would be affected.
- Any specifics you can provide in your comments on your individual situation will be helpful. Form letters and comments that look generic typically get minimal consideration by the responsible agencies. Conversely, comments that are prepared individually and describe specific situations stand a better chance of being considered in the final decisions.
- Certainly, if you see anything in the DBHCP that you know to be incorrect or inaccurate, we would like to hear about that. Once the public comment period is over we will prepare a final DBHCP that will be used by the Services, Districts and City for the next 30 years. This is our chance to make any necessary corrections before it is finalized.
- Much of the DBHCP document is background information and/or required content that will be used by the Services to process our application, but won’t be particularly informative for most readers. If you want to make most efficient use of your time, concentrate on Chapter 3 – Scope of the DBHCP and Chapter 6 – Habitat Conservation.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was prepared by a private contractor under the direction of USFWS and NMFS. It is an evaluation of the impacts of our proposed DBHCP, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- The NEPA process is complicated and the preparation of an EIS typically requires a considerable amount of professional judgement on the part of the responsible agencies and writers. It is common to see challenges to an EIS by project opponents on procedural grounds (i.e., strict adherence to the complex NEPA guidelines), but such challenges typically serve little purpose other than to delay the process and increase the overall cost. No one will be served by further delays in the issuance of the incidental take permits. We do not encourage reviewers to challenge the approach USFWS and NMFS have taken on the DEIS unless you identify a specific item that you believe has resulted in an incorrect or inaccurate portrayal of the impacts. If you do comment on such an item, be sure to provide any information you can to support your views.
- Perhaps the most difficult analysis for the DEIS preparers was the analysis of economic impacts. The large geographic area and wide diversity of economic interests in the Basin made it difficult to capture the full impacts of the DBHCP. We suggest you review the economic analysis carefully, and provide any information you can to improve the analysis. As with the DBHCP, comments that the DEIS analysis is wrong or incomplete, without supporting data or suggested improvements, are not particularly helpful and are not likely to result in any change to the Final EIS. On the other hand, comments that describe and document economic impacts in the Basin that may have been overlooked or understated can be used to improve the accuracy of the Final EIS.
- We anticipate opponents to the incidental take permits will comment that the DEIS overstates the economic impacts of the proposed mitigation measures to the Basin communities. We encourage reviewers to comment positively on analyses in the DBHCP that you find to be accurate. Anything you can provide to help the Services to defend their analyses will be helpful. Anything you can provide to improve it will also be helpful.
- The technical analyses of impacts to hydrology and biological resources in the Basin are extremely complicated and are based in large part on the collaborative studies the DBBC, City and Services have conducted over the past 10 years. The analyses also benefit from the independent work of the EIS team. We will be reviewing these analyses for accuracy and consistency with the DBHCP. If you have specific expertise within your organization to review these sections, comments are always helpful, particularly if you can provide specific suggestions for improvement. If you do not have the expertise, however, you need not feel obligated to comment on these technical sections.
- Like the DBHCP, the DEIS includes a lot of information that will have limited relevance to most reviewers. Your time will be best spent if you concentrate on the portions of Chapter 3 that discuss the impacts of Alternative 2: Proposed Action. These are interspersed throughout Chapter 3, but the section and subsection headings are explicit and clearly marked so you should be able to find them easily by scrolling through the document. There are also appendices in Volume 2 that are relevant to the impacts of Alternative 2 and worth reviewing. These are cited within the various sections of Chapter 3, so you’ll know which ones are of interest to you.