Oregon Spotted Frog Litigation Could Impact Water Supplies to Farms & Ranches in Central Oregon


(Photo courtesy of Deschutes Basin Board of Control)

Irrigation districts throughout the Deschutes Basin are concerned with a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity filed against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over the Oregon spotted frog, which was recently listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The lawsuit could result in reduced water supplies to thousands of farm and ranch families throughout Central Oregon, and potentially affect other fish and wildlife species.

Mike Britton, president of the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, which represents eight irrigation districts (Districts) in Oregon’s Deschutes Basin, said, “Irrigation districts and others in Central Oregon, including conservation groups, have been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve habitat for the Oregon spotted frog and other fish and wildlife species.

“We plan to continue working with our partners despite this legal threat.”

In 2008, the Districts and City of Prineville (City) began a process to develop the Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (DBHCP). As part of that process scientific studies on the Oregon spotted frog have been undertaken in collaboration with local, state and federal agencies and conservation groups.

The pending plan will eventually recommend measures to improve the frog’s habitat in the Deschutes River and its tributaries. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded six grants to develop the DBHCP totaling $2.6 million to date, and the Districts and City have contributed an additional $2.7 million to match the federal funds.

“The Districts are working hard to conserve water and improve habitat for Oregon spotted frogs,” said Craig Horrell, general manager of Central Oregon Irrigation District. The Bureau of Reclamation has provided nearly $7 million in competitive WaterSmart grants to the Districts for canal lining, piping and hydropower projects. These grants have conserved water, increased instream flows, and enhanced water management, benefitting fish and wildlife species including the Oregon spotted frog.

Horrell added, “We do not intend to allow this latest lawsuit to slow down our efforts.”

For more information on the irrigation districts, visit http://dbbcirrigation.com


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