Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment (Watershed Plan-EA)?

A Watershed Plan-EA is an official environmental review document required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for planning and carrying out projects under the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program (also known as Public Law 83-566) and to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A Watershed Plan-EA is required for any project that applies for federal financial assistance through the NRCS Watershed Program. The purpose of a Watershed Plan-EA is to determine the significance of the proposed project’s environmental effects and to look at alternative means to achieve the same objectives. Environmental effects to be considered include social, cultural, economic, and natural resources. 

How are Watershed Plan-EAs created?

Prior to drafting a Watershed Plan-EA, the project sponsor is responsible for conducting a preliminary investigation of the environmental effects of the project. This investigation results in a Preliminary Investigative Report (PIR), which is an initial scoping of the proposed project’s environmental effects and allows the lead agency and public to provide feedback early in the process. The PIR forms a starting point for the Watershed Plan-EA and will be available for each proposed project on this website. 

What is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?

NEPA was the first major environmental law in the United States, signed by President Nixon on January 1, 1970. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. The goal of the NEPA process is to foster action that protects, restores, and enhances our environment. This is achieved through using Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) to provide public officials with relevant information and allow a detailed look at the potential environmental consequences of each proposed project. Read more about the NEPA process from the Council of Environmental Quality

Who are the project sponsors?

The Deschutes Basin Board of Control (comprised of eight irrigation districts) is the lead project sponsor and local irrigation districts are the co-sponsors for several modernization projects in the upper Deschutes Basin. Central Oregon Irrigation District, Swalley Irrigation District, and Tumalo Irrigation District are each proposing separate projects to modernize their irrigation infrastructure. 

What is the role of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for the proposed projects?

NRCS is the lead agency responsible for writing the Watershed Plan-EAs to ensure compliance with NEPA. Depending on the significance of the environmental effects of the proposed project, NCRS will issue a decision known as a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) or will pursue additional review. NRCS will determine if the proposed projects provide sufficient watershed conservation net benefits to receive federal financial assistance. 

What is the role of the Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA)?

FCA is partnering with NRCS to prepare Watershed Plan-EAs for each project and manage the public participation process. FCA is also advising the irrigation districts on effective modernization strategies and project design. 


Local Partners

  • City of Bend
  • Bend Parks and Recreation
  • Deschutes County 

Federal and State

  • Business Oregon
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA)
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ)
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW)
  • Oregon Department of State Lands (ODSL)
  • Oregon Governor's Office
  • Oregon State Historic and Preservation Office (SHPO)
  • Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD)
  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
  • U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Deschutes National Forest


  • Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS)

Other Stakeholders

  • Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (UDWC)
  • Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC)
  • Central Oregon Land Watch
  • Water Watch of Oregon
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Coalition for the Deschutes


  • Farmers and ranchers who receive their irrigation water through the Central Oregon, Tumalo and Swalley Irrigation Districts 
  • Private landowners surrounding the open canals and irrigation infrastructure operated by those districts

Get Involved

How can I participate in these projects?

Your input helps local irrigation districts and agencies make informed project decisions. You are encouraged to participate in the watershed planning process by:

  • Asking questions about the proposed projects
  • Submitting comments during official comment periods via email or mail
  • Attending public meetings
  • Reviewing project materials on this website