Drought photo

Courtesy photo

OLYMPIA - Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has expanded an original drought declaration to include Mason and Thurston County.

Inslee declared an emergency drought declaration in Mid-April for 24 watersheds. The updated emergency declaration now includes 27 watersheds including the Methow, Okanogan, and Upper Yakima basins.

Ecologists said when a drought is declared, the Department of Ecology is the lead agency for drought response and follows a comprehensive Drought Contingency Plan. Drought response efforts reportedly include aiding state agriculture, protecting public water supplies, safeguarding fish and boosting stream flows, maintaining critical energy supplies, preparing to fight wildfires (DNR).

The Washington State Department of Ecology stated it has begun accepting applications for grants to help those experiencing hardships related to the drought emergency.

In the 2019 legislative session, legislators approved $2 million in funds related to drought response. Public agencies, such as towns or irrigation districts, can apply for up to $350,000 which must be matched by the public agency.

Olympic Peninsula classified as being in severe drought by federal drought monitor

The Olympic Peninsula has been classified as being in a severe drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor in their weekly update.

The USDM changed their classification for the Olympic Peninsula region from "moderate" to "severe" drought conditions.

According to the USDM, a severe drought classification can bring potential impacts of likely crop and pasture damage, water shortages, and water restrictions. In response to current conditions, some communities and water systems on the peninsula have already begun anticipating low water supply.

Bay/Seiku, Upper Fairview, and Island View water systems have begun the process of activating water shortage response plans.

"Water shortage plans help water systems conserve available water supplies to the extent possible, and to help determine if additional sources of water supply should be developed," Jeff Zenk with the Department of Ecology said.

"Currently in Stage 2 of their plans, these systems are encouraging customers to conserve water and prepare for a more resource-protective response later this summer. We have had an unseasonably warm and dry spring, including the fourth-driest March on record, averaged statewide" Zenk added.

Precipitation on the Western Olympic Peninsula from January through May was reportedly the third driest since 1895. Even with a drastic amount of snow in February in Western Washington, Zenk explained there wasn't snowpack or spring weather necessary for healthy water supplies.

Streamflows on the peninsula are lower than normal, with most of the streamflows in the bottom tenth percentile; some rivers including the Satsop and Wynoochee have hit record flows on some days this spring.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest River Forecast Center is forecasting the Elwha and Skokomish Rivers may experience their second-lowest seasonal runoff in 2019.

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