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Gov. Kotek issues drought declaration for Deschutes, Grant counties, directs state help

(Update: Adding video, comments from Deschutes Basin watermaster)

Similar declarations declared last month for Crook, Jefferson counties

 SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – Gov. Tina Kotek announced Friday that she has declared a drought in Deschutes and Grant counties through Executive Order 23-08, and directed state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to the region.

Both counties have portions of extreme drought (D3) and are experiencing well below average water year precipitation.

Streamflow has also been well below average in both counties over the water year, with Deschutes at 78% and Grant at 44% of its average streamflow. Likewise, streamflow at their respective basins have been below average, with Deschutes at 71% and John Day at 39%.

Reservoir conditions in the Deschutes Basin are approaching historic lows and soil moisture conditions across surface, root zone and shallow groundwater profiles are extremely dry. Above average snowpack conditions, 117% in Deschutes and 154% in John Day, will provide limited relief to drought conditions in some parts of each county.

The governor issued a similar drought declaration last month for Crook and Jefferson counties, and Deschutes County officials requested the same.

This year's above-average snowpack is only expected to provide limited relief.

"Frankly, it's too little, too late," Deschutes Basin Watermaster Jeremy Giffin said Friday. "The reservoirs are very low right now. It takes several years of above-average snowpack and precipitation to really make a dent in the drought."

Giffin said due to several years of below-average precipitation, four of the region's five largest reservoirs are at or near historic lows. He expects irrigation districts to again have to shut off early or curtail water deliveries this summer.

The drought declaration by Governor Kotek unlocks a number of drought-related emergency tools for water users, including assistance to local water users. Drought declarations also allow the Water Resources Department to expedite review processes and reduce fee schedules.

The Oregon Drought Readiness Council, a standing body composed of natural resource, public health, and emergency response agencies, received requests from the Grant County Court and Deschutes County Board of Commissioners in March requesting the governor’s drought declarations.

The council received input from Oregon’s Water Supply Availability Committee on regional water supply conditions and Council members have conferred on this matter. The council recommended that the governor declare drought in Grant and Deschutes counties for the 2023 calendar year, pursuant to Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 536.740.

As state and local officials coordinate with federal partners, conditions will be closely monitored by the state’s natural resource and public safety agencies, including the Oregon Water Resources Department and the Oregon Department of Emergency Management.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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