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Drought continues to spread across vast portions of southern and Eastern Oregon, with Lake County the latest to receive an emergency declaration from Gov. Kate Brown.
“Forecasts are predicting severe drought and wildfire conditions for much of Oregon,” Brown said in a statement. “The conditions in Lake County are already concerning, and I’m directing state agencies to prioritize assistance in the area to help minimize the impacts drought conditions could have on the local economy.”
Drought has also been declared in Klamath, Grant and Harney counties. Racquel Rancier, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Water Resources Department, said no other applications are currently pending.
The Lake County Board of Commissioners requested drought relief in March, citing below average precipitation and inconsistent water storage, ranging from 51 percent of normal at Cottonwood Reservoir to 114 percent of normal at Drews Reservoir.
Approximately 45,000 acres of irrigated farmland were expected to run out of stored water between April and May, and 147,000 outlying acres were also expected to run out of water around the same time, according to the county’s drought resolution.
“Many longtime Lake County farmers and ranchers have commented that they have not seen water conditions this severe since 2015,” the county resolution states.
As of May 30, snowpack has entirely melted in the Lake County and Goose Lake basins. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly all of southern and Eastern Oregon in some stage of drought, from abnormally dry to severe conditions.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center also forecasts Oregon will be hotter and drier than normal for the next three months, exacerbating drought statewide.
“The Lake County Board of Commissioners determines that extraordinary measures must be taken to alleviate suffering of people and livestock and to protect or mitigate economic loss, and to be responsive to the threat of wildfires,” the resolution continues.
The governor’s drought declaration gives water managers some increased flexibility to assist producers on the ground, such as emergency water use permits, water exchanges, substitutions and in-stream leases.