(Update: Adding pair of executive orders declaring drought emergencies)
Joining eight other counties with drought declarations
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – Gov. Kate Brown signed a pair of executive orders Tuesday declaring drought emergencies in seven Central and Eastern Oregon counties “due to lack of precipitation and unusually low snowpack and streamflow.”
The executive orders, one for Deschutes and Jefferson counties and the other for Crook, Harney, Malheur, Sherman and Wallowa counties, were based on requests by the county commissions and recommendations by the Drought Readiness Council and the Water Supply Availability Committee finding that the dry conditions “have caused or will cause natural and economic disaster conditions” in the counties.
“Forecasted water supply conditions are not expected to improve,” the orders state, noting the “significant economic impact” as well as the impact on natural resources.
The orders, which expire Dec. 31, direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture to coordinate and provide help in seeking federal resources to mitigate drought conditions and assist in agricultural recovery. The Water Resources Department, meanwhile, is directed to coordinate and provide aid to water users. The Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Office of Emergency Management are also involved.
It's the second year in a row for emergency drought declarations the three Central Oregon counties.
The Drought Readiness Council said in a letter sent Friday to the governor's office that they have received input from Oregon’s Water Supply Availability Committee on regional water supply conditions and council members have "conferred on this matter."
The seven now join eight Oregon counties where the governor has already issued drought declarations, according to a listing from the Oregon Water Resources Department. (The list indicates another county, Umatilla, also has a drought declaration request pending.)
A state drought declaration allows the Water Resources Department to offer certain tools to water right-holders in a drought-declared county.
These tools have an expedited review process, reduced fee schedule, and are intended to be short-term emergency authorizations, not permanent solutions.
Water right holders seeking long-term solutions can contact their watermaster for other options such as temporary transfers, where a water user can apply to change the type of use, place of use, or the location of the diversion under an existing water right.
SNOTEL telemetry reports say the region's vital snow-water content is at just 48 percent of the median for this time of year.
For Deschutes County, it's the 10th drought declaration since 1991.