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Governor signs drought declaration for the region 

By TY BEAVER, Herald and News 3/18/10 




   Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a drought declaration for Klamath County and the surrounding area Wednesday as irrigators prepare for what is expected to be one of the worst droughts in decades.


   The drought declaration will make aid available to the area and speed up ways the state can     help, including drilling emergency groundwater wells. The order also covers Jackson, Douglas, Lake, Lane and Deschutes counties.


   Kulongoski also requested a federal natural resource disaster declaration that could bring further assistance.


   “The water situation presents a real threat of economic loss to those who live and work in the Klamath Basin — and the state is going to do everything in its power to help,” the governor said in a press release.  


   Leaders in the county welcomed news that aid efforts were on track.


   “We’re very pleased that it’s early enough in the process to make some plans,” said Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott.


   Low water levels


   Extremely low water levels in Upper Klamath Lake, along with below average precipitation and inflows, have many expecting the worst drought in decades, including 2001 when water was shut off to Project irrigators.


   Kulongoski was in the Klamath Basin last week to hear from residents about the impacts of the expected water shortage and to meet   with federal agencies charged with regulating water for the Project as well as environmental needs.


   The governor has directed state departments to render any necessary aid to the region.


   His signing of the drought decla ration furthers that directive, especially for the Oregon Water Resources Department, which has sent staff to the county to speed up the process for granting emergency permits for groundwater wells.  


   Federal declaration


   A federal declaration, though, would open up even more resources to the region, especially from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


   “Iimagine everything the federal government could do should be done,” Elliott said.


   Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said he and others in the irrigation community are speaking with the region’s federal lawmakers in Washington D.C., to determine what aid could come from the federal government.


   “Part of the confusion is what could be available through USDA,” he said.

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              Page Updated: Sunday March 21, 2010 05:09 PM  Pacific

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