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Washington Governor Declares Drought In Three Regions

Anna Trombley
Washington Department of Ecology
Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared drought for three regions of the state on Friday, March 15, 2015.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared drought today in three regions of the Evergreen state: the Olympic Peninsula, the east side of the Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region. 

The governor said in a press release the state has to prepare for a drought that will affect farms, fish and wildfires.

Top Washington officials from several different departments outlined a grim reality for the affected regions. They blamed an unusually warm winter, with rain instead of snow.

Snowpack is just 7 percent of normal in the Olympic Mountains. And it ranges from 8 to 45 percent of normal across the Cascades, and is 67 percent of normal in the Walla Walla region. Snowmelt is just 4 percent of normal in the Olympic Peninsula and is down across the Cascades as well.

Since this is a snowpack drought, officials say it will likely grow worse as the summer draws on.

Streams could get too warm for fish to survive. Forest fires could be similar to last year’s record burns. Cities and homes may need water transfers and emergency wells. And farms with high value crops like cherries and wine grapes could go dry without aggressive water management and flexibility.

State officials have asked for $9 million of emergency drought relief from the state legislature. That money would be used to quench farms, provide healthy drinking water to communities and aid fish and wildlife survival.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.