7 Oregon counties now in drought emergencies

Gov. Kate Brown makes Baker and Wheeler Counties eligible for federal drought aid.

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Gov. Kate Brown recently made Baker and Wheeler counties eligible for federal drought aid.

The counties join Lake, Malheur, Crook, Harney and Klamath counties facing drought emergencies.

From the Statesman Journal:

The drought is having a significant impact on agriculture, livestock and natural resources in each of the jurisdictions, Brown’s office said. As of April 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had declared portions of 11 western and central states disaster areas because of drought.

That includes all of California, most of Nevada and Arizona, and five counties in Oregon. Meanwhile, the U.S. Drought Monitor puts 50 percent of Oregon in severe drought and 34 percent of the state in extreme drought. For the first time since 2004, a small portion of the state, less than one percent bordering California, is in exceptional drought, the most extreme of the six drought levels.

Brown said in a release: “Oregon’s warm and dry winter has potentially devastating consequences for those who live in Baker and Wheeler counties. By enlisting the support of our state and federal partners, we will ensure the safety of residents, livestock and property.”

Then-Gov. John Kitzhaber declared nine counties to be in drought last year.

While the rest of the state struggles with the historically dry winter, Portland could emerge unscathed.

From the Portland Tribune:

The bulk of Portland’s water comes from the mid-elevation Bull Run Watershed, where most of the precipitation falls as rain: “The rainfall has been fairly normal for the winter and into the spring,” according to Gerald Macke, a meteorological technician for the Portland office of the National Weather Service. “We got a lot of precipitation, but it all ran off because it wasn’t cold enough to make snow at higher elevations.”

Facilities at Bull Run were able to capture that runoff. The drinking water reservoirs that serve Portland are currently full, according to the Water Bureau. Officials anticipate a relatively normal summer water supply situation as long as we experience typical late spring precipitation totals.

That isn’t to say that life won’t be completely unaffected for Portlanders as the drought could affect everything from vacation activity to food prices.