Watershed Planning

Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program

The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) manages the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program, authorized by Congress in 1954. The purpose of this program is to provide technical and financial assistance to irrigation districts to plan and implement authorized watershed projects that:

  • Protect watersheds,
  • Mitigate floods,
  • Improve water quality,
  • Reduce soil erosion,
  • Enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and
  • Create opportunities for hydroelectric power production.

This year, Congress appropriated $150 million to the NRCS Watershed Program. There are two things that irrigation districts need in order to qualify for funding under this program:

  1. A final Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment (Watershed Plan-EA); and
  2. Match funding.

In partnership with the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, three irrigation districts are going to apply for funding from this program to complete water conservation projects: Tumalo, Swalley and Central Oregon Irrigation Districts.

The purpose of this website is to provide the public information about how to get involved in the watershed planning process.  

Overview of the Watershed Planning Process

Three irrigation districts in the Deschutes Basin are working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA), and other stakeholders to develop Watershed Plan-EAs that support irrigation modernization and provide local environmental benefits. Project partners are developing these Watershed Plan-EAs under the NRCS’ Watershed Program (also known as the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954 or Public Law 83-566).

The proposed projects for Central Oregon Irrigation District, Swalley Irrigation District, and Tumalo Irrigation District would convert open irrigation canals to piped and pressurized systems. The proposed projects generally intend to:

  1. Enhance aquatic and riparian habitat for sensitive aquatic and riparian species through increased stream flow in the Deschutes River and its tributaries
  2. Reduce risks to public safety from open irrigation canals
  3. Support and maintain existing agricultural land uses through enhanced water supply reliability 
  4. Provide financial stability to the irrigation districts through reduced operation and maintenance costs and opportunities to add hydroelectric generation facilities to District infrastructure.

Public participation is essential to the watershed planning and environmental review process. It helps irrigation districts and agencies make informed decisions that consider the full range of environmental effects and alternative solutions.

NRCS initiated the watershed planning process for these projects on June 16, 2017. For more information please see the announcement at NRCS Public Notices and the NRCS Press Release on June 19, 2017.