Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek on Thursday declared a drought emergency for Crook and Jefferson counties. The executive order directs state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to those Central Oregon counties.
“While this is the first drought declaration of the year, Central Oregon has been facing persistent drought for years due to the ongoing impacts of climate change,” Kotek said in a statement. “This is already looking like another challenging drought year for the state, which brings higher risks of wildfires and water shortages. I am committed to ensuring that our agencies are working closely with all partners to get those who are most impacted the help they need.
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Crook County declared its own drought emergency a little more than one month ago. Despite near normal snowpack in the Ochocos, streamflows and reservoir storage levels are at record lows due to persistent drought conditions.
Kotek’s office says the state 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.”
Most of Central Oregon is in Severe, Extreme or Exceptional Drought status, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“The Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index, a metric to measure drought conditions, indicates the 36-month average ending in January 2023 is by far the worst on record,” Kotek’s office said regarding Crook County’s drought status.
In regard to Jefferson County, Kotek’s office said, “Natural flows and reservoir supplies are at or near all-time lows affecting water users and impacting drinking water, fish, wildlife, and instream uses.”