Drought emergency declared in 13 Oregon counties

Feds make low-interest loans available to small businesses to offset costs caused by drought.

Share this article!


The U.S. Small Business Administration is making low-interest loans available to small businesses to offset costs caused by drought.

Small, nonfarm businesses in 13 counties are eligible, OregonLive.com reports.

The agencies opened up their aid programs in Oregon in response to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement this week that most of Oregon is in drought disaster mode. A map of the disaster zones nationwide shows California, Nevada, and Arizona completely engulfed in drought, while just a few counties in New Mexico and Utah remain unaffected. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state-level emergency in Lake and Malheur counties, where she said water projections “look bleak.” Brown is likely to expand the declaration to other counties into more counties after the state’s Water Availability Committee meets next month.

The federal loans of up to $2 million are available to small businesses, agricultural cooperatives and nurseries, aquaculture businesses and nonprofit organizations in danger of failing to meet their bottom line because of drought-related financial hits. The loans do not cover property damage.

The OregonLive.com report included farmers expressing anxiety about a lack of water this summer. In Pendleton on Friday, Gov. Kate Brown said passing a water bill is a priority.

The new governor said she would like to ensure the $51.6 million Columbia River water development fund is included in the budget, East Oregonian reports.

State Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) said the Senate is very supportive of the project and willing to carve out the dollars early, but he’s not so sure about the House. He said Brown’s visit east is a show of support, and he hopes that when she returns to the capitol she will help finalize the funding.

The $51.6 million would help fund a three-phase plan developed by the Northeast Oregon Water Association that would allow farmers to pump extra water from the Columbia Basin and also fund upstream projects that would help restore native fish runs. The plan could put 200,000 acres of farmland into production in Umatilla and Morrow counties. Richard Whitman, who served as Kitzhaber’s top natural resources advisor, has continued his role in Brown’s office. He traveled with the governor this week and said he has a high level of comfort in the policy that has been presented to lawmakers.