The public comment period has been extended by 15 days for the Deschutes River Habitat Conservation Plan, a potentially landmark document that will impact how water is used in the Deschutes River basin for decades to come.
The public comment period, which was set to expire Nov. 18, will close on Dec. 3, according to a notice published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Federal Register.
The extension was made following requests by Central Oregon LandWatch and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, according to Bridget Moran, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“In both cases, they cited the length of the documents available and a desire to spend more time putting their comments together,” Moran wrote in an email.
The Habitat Conservation Plan was devised by the city of Prineville and the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, which includes representatives from eight irrigation districts.
The plan, covered in a sweeping 870-page document, would set new flow targets in the Deschutes River and its tributaries to address effects on the Oregon spotted frog, steelhead trout, bull trout and other fish species that inhabit local waterways.
If approved by federal regulators, the districts will receive permits that would allow them to continue delivering water without the threat of lawsuits or penalties for 30 years. Meeting targets will require putting more water in the Deschutes River in the winter from Wickiup Reservoir.