Press Release: March 13, 2018
Klamath Falls, OR — Governor Kate Brown today signed an Executive Order declaring a drought in Klamath County and directed state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to the region. Additionally, Governor Brown met with Klamath County officials, tribal members, and water users to discuss options for immediate drought relief. At the meeting, Governor Brown committed the state to a locally supported, comprehensive resolution to conflicts over water and land in the Klamath Basin, and asked federal officials to commit to the same.
“We know 2018 is shaping up to be a very difficult year for the Klamath Basin, and we’re closely monitoring drought conditions here and statewide,” Governor Brown said. “I am committed to doing everything possible to make state resources available to provide immediate relief and assistance to water users throughout Klamath County. As we brace for another record-breaking drought year, collaborating with our federal partners will also be critical as we work towards locally supported, long-term solutions.”
The Impacts of Drought
At the end of February, the snow-water equivalent in Klamath County was 40 percent of a normal water year, and forecasted water conditions are not expected to improve. Drought, severe weather conditions, and the upcoming fire season pose significant threats to the local economy, agriculture and livestock, natural resources, and recreation in Klamath County. Local officials predict conditions this year could result in losses exceeding $557 million and impacting 4,500 jobs.
What a Drought Declaration Means
Governor Brown’s drought declaration unlocks a number of drought-related emergency tools for water users, including assistance to local water users. Drought declarations also allow the Water Resources Department to expedite review processes and reduce fee schedules. Declarations are intended to be short-term emergency authorizations to address water supply challenges. More information is available at Oregon Drought Watch.
A request for federal assistance was also made and supported by members of Oregon’s congressional delegation. Interior Department Deputy Commissioner of Reclamation, Alan Mikkelsen, attended the Governor’s meeting with Klamath officials and committed federal assistance to the Klamath Basin.
As state and local officials coordinate with federal partners, conditions will be closely monitored by the state’s natural resource and public safety agencies, including the Oregon Water Resources Department and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management .
The Drought Declaration Process
Requests for drought declarations typically go through a three-part process before securing a state drought declaration from the governor. On Feb. 20, the Klamath County Commission declared a drought emergency due to low snowpack, low precipitation, low streamflows and warmer than normal temperature, and a state drought declaration was requested. State officials subsequently met, and the Oregon Drought Readiness Council ultimately recommended that the governor’s drought declaration will provide a critical tool to confront current water conditions and future climatic forecasts.