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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Jackson fifth Oregon county to declare drought emergency

Looking out over a lake, with clear blue skies overhead. One the left hand side is the shore of the lake, with multiple "bathtub rings" signifying where the waters in the lake have historically been. In the background are rolling hills with green foliage.
Erik Neumann
/
JPR
Emigrant Lake outside of Ashland, OR in Jackson County in the summer of 2021. Pictured are the "bathtub rings" showing past water levels in the reservoir.

On Wednesday, Jackson County joined four other counties in Oregon declaring a drought emergency.

Low water storage and snowpack levels in Southern Oregon have prompted the fifth Oregon county to declare a drought emergency this year, ahead of what’s expected to be an extremely dry summer.

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

Jackson County commissioners made the drought declaration. It follows declarations by Klamath, Jefferson, Morrow and Crook Counties earlier this month.

“The extended weather forecast for Jackson County predicts higher than normal temperatures and below average precipitation," says 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.

Jordan says the effects stretch beyond the ability for farmers to irrigate their crops.

“In addition, this multi-year cumulative drought has resulted in decreased fuel moisture and early onset fire danger," he says.

It’s expected fire season could begin as early as May this year.

Commissioners say they hope for the best in the coming months, but this declaration shows they’re preparing for the worst.