In Short

Kotek declares drought emergencies in Harney, Wasco counties

By: - April 19, 2023 12:21 pm
Drought cracks soil between crop rows

Oregon is currently experiencing the longest drought in 1,200 years. according to the Oregon Water Resources Department. (Getty Images)

Gov. Tina Kotek has declared two new drought emergencies in Harney and Wasco counties.

These mark the fifth and sixth such emergencies this year. She declared drought emergencies in Jefferson and Crook counties in February and followed with declarations in Deschutes and Grant last month.

The drought conditions in these areas are likely to affect thousands of Oregonians, Kotek indicated in a release.

“Drought is likely to have a significant economic impact on the farm, ranch, vineyard, recreation, tourism and natural resources sectors, as well as an impact on drinking water, fish and wildlife,” the release said. “Extreme conditions are expected to affect local growers and livestock, increase the potential for fire, shorten the growing season and decrease water supplies.”

The release said nearly all of Harney County is affected by the drought, which has persisted for years across the West.

“Nearly all of Harney County is experiencing drought conditions with a portion of the county experiencing extreme drought conditions,” the release said. 

Malheur Lake Basin has about one-quarter less water than average, and water experts expect the same for the Silvies River, though snowpack is about average, the release said.

Conditions in Wasco County are more severe. Moderate drought conditions have affected one-quarter of the county and nearly half is experiencing severe drought, the release said. 

“Conditions have worsened since the beginning of water year 2023, with an approximately 40% increase in area coverage of severe drought conditions,” the release said.

Wasco County has received less than average precipitation, too, the release said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, a joint project of the federal Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, classifies almost all of central-eastern Oregon as being in some form of drought. Conditions are worst in Crook County and portions of Deschutes, Grant, Harney, Jefferson and Wheeler counties. Much of the rest of the state outside the Willamette Valley is classified as “abnormally dry.” 

The declarations unleash emergency tools and resources to help the areas manage their resources, including by allowing temporary water use permits and temporary water transfers, exchanges and substitutions. 

Kotek said state and local officials work with federal officials to monitor conditions and resources.



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years.