Local News

Jefferson County Requests Drought Declaration

MADRAS, OR -- Despite a strong snowpack and recent rain, a county in Central Oregon is asking the Governor to declare a drought emergency. "Bottom line: it’s a horrible situation," says Jefferson County Commissioner Kelly Simmelink. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (pictured), nearly all of Jefferson County is considered Abnormally Dry.

Wednesday, Commissioners agreed to request a state drought declaration, on behalf of the North Unit Irrigation District. Simmelink says, "It’s a 60,000-acre irrigated district, and we probably had about 75% of that that was fallow, meaning not planted." He says agriculture is the county’s main economic driver and the loss of acreage impacts the entire community. Two large farms went under this year, Simmelink says, "Back to back, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s more rearing their head here, shortly. It’s pretty desperate. We’ve got tractor companies leaving town, we’ve got everything that you can possibly conceive that could go wrong - no pun intended, but it’s a trickle down effect."

Local reservoirs are nearly full but he thinks it's too little too late, "When you’ve sucked it dry for six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years now, it takes a while to recover and one good or pretty good - it’s not even great. It’s pretty good - year is just kind of a Band Aid at best." Simmelink tells KBND News, "The crops that are in the ground right now, if we do have those extreme conditions, where it’s too hot or it gets too hot too soon, or whatever the hell it is, where no amount of water’s going to make any difference, what do you tell the guy that’s paying crop insurance that isn’t able to do anything?"

A state emergency declaration would clear the way for state and federal aid, "Whether that’s to help some folks pay their water bill that otherwise won’t be able to or- You know, the last thing I want to do is lose another farm or ranch." Simmelink adds, "If a crop fails, the first question that the feds are going to ask you, or the insurance company is going to ask you is, ‘is your county in a drought?’ And we just know that that’s going to happen." 

He plans to send a letter directly to Governor Tina Kotek to help explain the situation, in an effort to expedite the process, which typically takes a month or more. Last year, Kotek declared a drought in Jefferson County in February. 


On Air Now

George Noorey
George Noorey
12:00am - 2:00am
Coast to Coast



News Disclaimers