Okanogan County Memorandum of Understanding

The ongoing Section 19.7 regulatory consultations and enforcement efforts in the Methow Valley were intended to support a larger policy effort. NOAA Fisheries policy staff representing the Regional Administrator, along with WDFW Regional staff and WDOE staff representing their respective Directors and the Governor's Office, were involved in negotiating a MOU with the Okanogan Board of County Commissioners. An MOU is typically viewed as a precursor to the development of negotiated HCP.

Under the ESA, mechanisms for protection against take liability are not provided for until after an HCP is negotiated and legally in effect. Negotiations related to HCPs can and often do take years to complete, while in the interim liability for the taking of endangered species continues in force. Whereas fish screening and passage issues can often be addressed through engineered designs that can usually be implemented in a relatively short period of time, addressing take caused by inadequate flows frequently requires substantial study and complicated, long-term multi-party policy negotiations. The MOU in the Okanogan County scenario was intended to provide some assurances to local water districts, including an understanding about prosecutorial discretion in certain circumstances while an HCP was being negotiated.

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