SALEM — Governor Kate Brown declared Friday, May 13, drought emergencies in Baker, Douglas, Wallowa, and Wheeler Counties through Executive Order 22-08, and directed state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to the region.
“Baker, Douglas, Wallowa, and Wheeler Counties are facing historic challenges from drought conditions that are creating hardships for the people, farms, ranches, communities, and ecosystems of the region. I am committed to doing everything possible to make state resources available to provide immediate relief and assistance to water users throughout Baker, Douglas, Wallowa, and Wheeler Counties,” said Governor Brown.
“Moving forward, we must look for long-term solutions to the underlying issue causing drought in Oregon counties: there is too little water to go around, and as the climate changes we are experiencing hotter, drier summers. 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.”
As of May 9, the snow-water equivalent in Baker, Douglas, Wallowa, and Wheeler Counties was significantly lower than during 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 Baker, Douglas, Wallowa, and Wheeler Counties.
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.
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.
Drought declarations typically go through a three-part process before securing a state drought declaration from the Governor. The Baker, Douglas, Wallowa, and Wheeler County Commissions first 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 issue a drought declaration to provide critical resources to confront current water conditions and future climatic forecasts.