The participation of cooperating agencies is an essential part of the development of the CRSO EIS. The cooperating agencies include tribal, federal, state and local government entities that represent a wide range of perspectives and interests throughout the Columbia River Basin. Their assistance is integral to the successful development of the draft EIS.
The concept for the cooperating agency relationship comes from the Council on Environmental Quality regulations for implementing NEPA. In particular, these regulations emphasize agency coordination and encourage cooperation between agencies with jurisdiction by law or special expertise. Jurisdiction by law is narrowly focused, and is defined as the authority to approve, veto or finance all or part of a proposal. Special expertise is broader, emphasizing “relevant capabilities or knowledge” that a cooperating agency has relating to the proposed action in the draft EIS.
The co-lead agencies and the cooperating agencies have responsibilities as part of this relationship, as described in agreed-upon Memoranda of Understanding. While the co-lead agencies retain responsibility for preparing the EIS and completing the NEPA process, the cooperating agencies are charged with assisting the co-lead agencies in reviewing sections of the CRSO draft EIS that apply to their jurisdiction by law or special expertise. Each Memorandum of Understanding identifies the specific resource areas or special expertise of a cooperating agency, such as fish and wildlife, water quality, cultural resources and economics. Cooperating agencies’ staff are members of the technical teams for which they provide this expertise.