More of Oregon in drought than not

Gov. Kate Brown has declared drought emergencies in 19 of the state’s 36 counties.

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Gov. Kate Brown has declared drought emergencies in 19 of the state’s 36 counties.

Sherman County in the Columbia River Gorge could join the list shortly as its request is “actually on the governor’s desk right now,” the governor’s press secretary Chris Pair said in a story published by the Bend Bulletin. Hood River County and Curry County will likely be next.

The declarations cover the majority of Oregon. “It is approximately 80 percent of the state’s landmass,” he said, “so it is covering a big portion of the state.” While 2014 was also marked by drought in Oregon, only nine counties had declared drought emergencies, including Crook County, but not Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

In 2002, when all three Central Oregon counties were under drought emergency declarations at the same time, 23 of Oregon’s counties had declared drought emergencies, said Racquel Rancier, senior policy coordinator for the Oregon Water Resources Department. A decade before, in 1992, the governor’s office made a statewide drought emergency declaration. Washington and California have statewide drought declarations this year, she said, but for now Oregon is considering counties individually. Doing so keeps county governments more in control of the water situation their residents are facing. Requests for a drought emergency declaration by the governor start with county leaders.

A statewide declaration has been considered but Oregon will continue “with a county-by-county process.”

In Eastern Oregon, farmers are eying low wheat yields after a dry winter and hot spring.

Sparse rainfall and diminished snowpack has impacted producers all across the West, but an unseasonable heat wave in late May and early June hit developing wheat plants at exactly the wrong time, said Dan Steiner of Pendleton Grain Growers. Dryland wheat growers, who farm without irrigation, were hit especially hard as the National Weather Service recorded temperatures of 90, 96 and 102 degrees in the Pendleton area from May 29 to June 10.

“Production will be down significantly,” Steiner said. He estimated a 20 percent yield drop overall from the statewide average of about 60 bushels an acre. “Some of the dryland areas are going to have zero. Some (fields) will be abandoned.”

(SOURCE: East Oregonian)

In addition to an earlier fire season, district watermasters are also sending shutoff notices to water rights holders at an earlier juncture than normal.

“I think it will be more intense and it will be more intense sooner and it will be more intense through the summer,” [district watermaster Michael Mattick] said.

Officials have been warning for months that a water shortage was likely after observing the state’s lowest recorded snowpack in 35 years. The melting snowpack in the Cascade Range keeps water flowing in streams and rivers as the summer heats up. They held out hope that spring rains would come to the rescue, filling the reservoirs so sufficient water could be metered out to get the fish, farmers and boaters in the basin through the summer. That didn’t happen.

(SOURCE: Register Guard)

The water level at the reservoirs on the Willamette River are half of normal for this time of year.


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