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Drought Declaration Expanded In Washington State, Coming Soon In Oregon

Washington Department of Ecology

Washington Governor Jay Inslee Friday significantly expanded a drought declaration due to dwindling snowpack.

Meanwhile, Oregon's governor said she expects to declare drought emergencies in more counties.

The expansion of the drought designation to northwest and southwest Washington and Okanogan County means close to half of the Evergreen State is now covered by a drought emergency.

In Oregon, five southern and eastern counties have been so designated and Governor Kate Brown says she expects to add at least several more to the list soon. Drought emergency requests from Wheeler and Baker counties have cleared initial review.

Maia Bellon, director of Washington's Department of Ecology, said she welcomed recent mountain snows, but said river flows are still expected to hit "their lowest in 64 years."

"Our primary hardship concerns are water for agriculture and water for fish,” she said. “We aren't experiencing many of these hardships today, but they are anticipated for the warmer months ahead."

Bellon said large municipal water systems should be fine. Seattle, Tacoma and Portland report having full reservoirs.

An official drought declaration allows state agencies to process water transfers and emergency well permits faster and to pay willing farmers to fallow their fields.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.