Governor declares drought emergency

The southeast corner of Oregon is vulnerable due to a lack of snowpack and rain.

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Gov. Kate Brown said the southeast corner of Oregon is vulnerable due to a lack of snowpack and rain as she declared a drought emergency Tuesday.

The declaration for Lake and Malheur counties will allow greater flexibility in water management and access to federal aid, the Statesman Journal reports.

“Projected forecasts for Malheur and Lake counties look bleak, meaning these rural communities will continue to experience severe drought conditions,” Brown said in a statement. “In addition to creating an increased wildfire risk, this drought presents hardships to crops, agriculture, communities, recreation, and wildlife, all of which rely on Oregon’s water resources.”

From the Statesman Journal:

Already this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture already has declared portions of 10 western and central states disaster areas because of drought. That includes all but one county in California and more than half of Nevada and Arizona. No Oregon counties are among those, though the U.S. Drought Monitor puts 45 percent of Oregon in severe drought.

Last year, Gov. John Kitzhaber declared drought in four Oregon counties in by early February and nine counties by early June. Gov. Brown is coordinating with Oregon’s federal delegation, state agencies, local governments and other partners to address drought-related issues.

Responding to the low snowpack, Crater Lake National Park officials have announced areas typically available for winter recreation activity will be limited.

Skiing and snowshoe outings in five major areas of the park are being discouraged, the Klamath Falls Herald & News reports. 

Garfield-Applegate Ridge off East Rim Drive is a possible alternative for snowshoers and advanced skiers. Park officials describe the route as an unmarked but straightforward ascent through meadows and groves of trees near the summit of the first climb. The distance from the trailhead is 3.2 miles.

March is typically Crater Lake’s heaviest snowfall month, but almost all of this month’s precipitation has been rain, not snow. Since Oct. 1, 2014, the park has received 143 inches of snow, well below the 403 inches normally recorded as of March 16. The on-ground snow total is 24 inches, only 21 percent of the 117 normally measured in mid-March. Since Oct. 1, the park has received 48 inches of precipitation, which is exactly average.


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