Commissioners declare Drought emergency; dry summer could
lead to $557 million loss for local ag
by STEPHEN FLOYD Herald and
News Feb 21, 2018
Klamath County commissioners have declared a drought
emergency as dry conditions forecast for this summer could
result in a half-a-billion dollar loss to local agriculture.
Approved unanimously Tuesday morning, the declaration allows
state and federal officials to consider a similar
declaration, which would then allow access to drought
governor’s office is expected to take action by the middle
of next month. The federal government may not consider
declaring a drought until this summer when conditions become
severe enough to do so.
Not too early, not too late
Commissioners began discussing a drought declaration in
January and said, though February and March may bring rain
and snow, they did not want to take action too late.
Commissioners initially delayed declaring a drought because,
if they took action too early, access to resources may
expire before the end of the summer.
According to Tuesday’s declaration, a drought this summer
could result in an estimated $557 million loss to
agriculture countywide, as well as the loss of nearly 4,500
jobs. These estimates were based on data collected in 2012
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
drought is expected due to exceptionally dry conditions
experienced throughout this winter. In December,
precipitation was 27 percent of the average, while
accumulated snow and water levels were at 28 percent of the
average as of Feb. 14.
Bite out of food production
Besides an economic hit, drought forecasts may reduce food
availability as well.
Riggs, director of Oregon State University Klamath Basin
Research and Extension Center, told commissioners an acre of
wheat feeds 44 people per year; an acre of potatoes feeds
1,355 people per year; an acre of beef feeds around eight
people per year; and an acre of dairy cows provides enough
milk for around 40,000 half-pint servings.
a food production system and this is the amount of food that
is lost globally now,” he said of potential drought
outcomes. “Somebody else has to make it up. I don’t know
where it’s going to come from.”
Commissioners estimated there are nearly 440,000 acres of
agricultural land within the county and production could be
reduced by half due to the drought.
Commissioner Donnie Boyd said thinking about the drought in
human terms rather than strict economic figures helps
illustrate the emergent need.
never seen $1 million, let alone $557 million, but I have
seen 44 people,” he said.
"Hopefully we can help get some government assistance to
keep our agricultural community alive through 2018," added
drought is declared at the state and federal level, water
users could have access to administrative solutions they
normally would not.
Klamath County Emergency Manager Morgan Lindsay said water
users could split water rights between properties,
substitute surface water use for ground water, issue
temporary emergency permits and other measures. Preference
would be given to water used by humans and livestock.
Lindsay said, if commissioners did not want to wait until
the summer for a declaration from the feds, they could
request a secretarial drought declaration directly.
Otherwise, she said conditions in Klamath Falls must meet
certain severity classifications before a federal
state and federal emergencies are declared, Lindsay said her
office will not be directly involved in dispensing aid to
water users. Instead, the Oregon Water Resource Department
will act through Klamath County Watermaster Dani Watson,
while federal aid will be provided through the Natural
Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Services Agency.
Despite dire predictions for this summer, Commissioner
Derrick DeGroot said he believes Klamath County will be able
to endure due to the strength and cohesion among its
think it’s important that we all stick together, as this
community tends to do," he said.
DeGroot said well-paying, stable jobs have grown in Klamath
County during the recent past and such jobs will help the
county's economy survive. He said, though a drought will
impact the county's economic progress, he believes growth
will ultimately continue to trend upward.
though this is a major obstacle — it’s something we’re all
going to feel the impact of — I think it’s important that we
keep our chin up and our eyes forward," he said. "The
resiliency of this community will be tested, but I think we
are up to the task."
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