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Deschutes County may seek emergency drought order


After four years of drought conditions in Oregon, this winter was disastrous.

Deschutes County officials said Friday they are debating whether to declare a drought emergency, as some neighboring counties have.

“We have a really low snowpack,” said Nathan Garibay, Emergency Services Manager with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department.

“We are very concerned at how low the snowpack was last year again, followed by this year which was a devastating snowpack year,” said Jeremy Giffin, Deschutes Basin watermaster.

Gov. Kate Brown has already declared drought emergencies in Malheur, Klamath, Crook and Harney counties. Baker and Wheeler counties are waiting for her signature. Could Deschutes County be next?

“It’s probably unlikely, since the upper basin reservoirs are at or near capacity,” Giffin said.

That doesn’t mean Deschutes County is in the clear.

“What we’re going to likely see is that the springs that are feeding the Deschutes River will likely start to lower,” Giffin said.

Officials will decide Monday whether or not to make the call.

“Those folks really look at what our streamflows are, projected water resources are for the county, and then make a recommendation through those processes to the governor,” Garibay said.

Declaring a drought emergency has many implications.

“What would happen would be it would open up some possible relief programs for people that would be subject to drought conditions,” Garibay said.

It also would trigger water conservation efforts. With another record-low snowpack season, officials are already worried about next year.

“We are very concerned, because we are going to end the season with very low reservoir levels. If that’s followed by another below-average snowpack and precipitation year, that could be troubling for the basins,” Giffin said.

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