KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) — Because of low snow pack and precipitation, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order this week declaring a drought in Klamath County.
Brown issued a drought declaration saying that the extremely low water supply is causing natural and economic disaster conditions heading into spring and summer, the Capital Press reported.
The declaration gives state agencies the ability to expedite water management tools such as emergency water permits, exchanges, substitutions and in-stream leases to mitigate conditions on the ground.
Snowpack is 65% of normal in the Klamath Basin as of March 4, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Mountain snow is critical because it acts as a natural reservoir, replenishing streams and lakes during the irrigation season.
Neighboring Rogue and Umpqua basins in Southern Oregon are also lagging behind normal snowpack at 71%, while the Lake County and Goose Lake areas are at 70% of normal levels.
Ken Stahr, surface water hydrology manager at the Oregon Water Resources Department, serves as co-chair of the state’s Drought Readiness Council, which considers requests from counties for drought aid. He said no other counties have filed applications yet, though now is the time of year when communities may begin to sense the impacts of drought.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly 80% of the state in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions. Conditions are faring better along the northern coast and northeast Oregon, where the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Willow basins still have 121% of normal snowpack.