Associated Press - Fifth county in Oregon declares drought emergency

This article was published on: 03/25/22 4:32 PM

Low water storage and snowpack levels have prompted the declaration in Jackson County. It follows declarations by Klamath, Jefferson, Morrow and Crook Counties.

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. — Low water storage and snowpack levels in southern Oregon have prompted a fifth Oregon county to declare a drought emergency.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports Jackson County commissioners made the drought declaration on Wednesday. It follows declarations by Klamath, Jefferson, Morrow and Crook Counties earlier this month.

The Pacific Northwest continues to face a prolonged drought, and this year is predicted to be worse than the past two years.

“The extended weather forecast for Jackson County predicts higher than normal temperatures and below average precipitation,” said Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan. “All of these conditions will result in the loss of economic stability, pasture shortages, a shortened growing season and decreased water supply for Jackson County’s agricultural, vineyard and livestock producers.”

An emergency declaration gives state agencies the power to override traditional water rights, helping to mitigate drought conditions. Counties under a drought emergency are also eligible for state and federal disaster relief funds.

Klamath County has been particularly hard hit. Some residents have seen wells run dry as groundwater recedes. Contentious fights have also occurred over how to allocate the water in Upper Klamath Lake, which is needed by farmers, ranchers and two species of endangered fish that are cultural mainstays of Indigenous people in the region.

The county also was home to one of the largest wildfires in Oregon history last year. Climate scientists have long said that drought and heightened wildfire risk will become more frequent and more severe as climate change continues to push global temperatures up.