A 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 Plan-EA (or Environmental Impact Statement) is required for any project that applies for federal financial assistance through the NRCS Watershed Program.
The purpose of a 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.
Prior to drafting a Plan-EA, the project sponsor is responsible for researching the resources that would potentially be affected by the proposed project (e.g. cultural resources, land use, water resources, wildlife). This is called the scoping process and can result in a Preliminary Investigative Findings Report (PIFR) describing the relevant resources in the vicinity of the proposed project. The scoping process allows other government agencies and the public to provide comments through a public scoping meeting and comment period. The lead federal agency uses the comments to develop a Draft Plan-EA for the proposed project.
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.
In the Deschutes Basin, 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 other basins, the irrigation district or drainage district is the lead sponsor for projects to modernize their irrigation infrastructure.
NRCS is the lead federal agency responsible for writing the Plan-EAs to ensure compliance with NEPA. Depending on the significance of the environmental effects of the proposed project, NCRS may 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.
NRCS is partnering with FCA to prepare Plan-EAs for each project and manage the public participation process. FCA is also advising project sponsors on effective modernization strategies and project design.
Your input helps local irrigation districts and agencies make informed decisions. You are encouraged to participate in the planning process by:
For further information please contact:
Farmers Conservation Alliance
102 State St
Hood River, OR 97031
Public scoping announcements can be viewed at NRCS Public Notices.