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Jackson County's Drought Disaster Order, Asks for State Disaster Declaration – KDRV

News Director
Medford, OR — Drought conditions are persisting in Southern Oregon and Northern California to the point Jackson County officially is declaring a drought disaster.
The Jackson County Commission is making that declaration this week while asking Oregon Governor Kate Brown to declare a  State-level drought emergency for Jackson County.
County Administrator Danny Jordan says prolonged drought conditions are bringing those declarations.  He says a local disaster order allows the Oregon Water Resources Department to exercise emergency water rights authority following a Governor’s drought declaration by issuing temporary emergency permits, transfers, instream leases, approve special option agreements, authorize temporary substitution of a supplemental ground water right for a primary surface water right, temporary exchange of the source of water allowed under a water right, and grant preference of use to water rights for human consumption or livestock.
Jordan recommended the County Commission approve the order, which it did yesterday.
He advised the Commission, “Jackson County’s agricultural and livestock industries, and related economy, are anticipated to suffer widespread and severe economic damage, potential injuries, and loss of property resulting from extreme weather conditions within the County. Annual water supplies available for irrigators and ranchers within Jackson County are a function of both available water storage in the Rogue and Applegate Rivers, in various reservoirs (Willow, Howard Prairie, Hyatt, Emigrant, Agate, Fish, and Four Mile Lakes), and the estimated seasonal inflow from winter snowpack.”
Jordan shared data with the Commission showing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has estimated that October 1, 2021, through March 1, 2022, the Rogue Basin is at 74% median snowpack and 73% of total average precipitation, and as of March 1, 2022, storage for the reservoirs was well below average with ranges from 12 to 67% of average. Long-term snowpack monitoring sites in the Rogue Basin have recorded below-average levels for snow water equivalent, including four snow courses on Mt. Ashland that have been measured continuously for over 40 years.
Today he said updated figures showed even lower water levels, with Howard Prairie Lake at 9% of capacity, Hyatt Lake at 12%, Emigrant Lake at 11%, “so we have a severe water shortage issue.” 
As of March 1, 2022, the USDA reports that streamflow forecasts decreased slightly from the month prior, however, water managers in Jackson County should prepare for near median to well below median water supplies if conditions remain similar.
Jordan’s information said “Jackson County also has approximately 40,000 acres of irrigation district lands irrigated, in part, from stored water, and many irrigation districts may choose to delay opening day and may be forced to curtail water sources later this summer.  As of March 2022, irrigation storage, as part of the United States Bureau of Reclamation Rogue Basin Project, is at 13 percent of average.
In addition to irrigation district lands, there are approximately 170,000 acres of irrigated lands that have individual water rights that will be affected by the low reservoir and streamflow levels. Many farmers, ranchers, and vineyards rely solely upon natural water sources, which are not augmented by local reservoirs, and these natural tributaries to the Rogue and Applegate Rivers are in extreme jeopardy of drying as they rely upon annual snowpack to run.
The extended weather forecast for Jackson County projects higher than normal temperatures, and below average precipitation. All of these conditions will result in the loss of economic stability, pasture shortages, decreases in feed production, a shortened growing season, and decreased water supplies for Jackson County’s agricultural, vineyard, and livestock producers. In addition, this multi-year cumulative drought has resulted in decreased fuel moisture and early onset fire danger.”
The top article image shows Willow Lake, and images below show Fish Lake, both in eastern Jackson County.
The last image shows Fish Lake at normal capacity.
Follow @KDRV12 on Facebook and @KDRV on Twitter for the latest news, sports, and weather in Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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