SALEM, Ore. — A fourth county in southern Oregon is now in a state of drought emergency following an order from Governor Kate Brown. Coos County received the drought emergency declaration on Friday.
Klamath, Jackson, and Curry counties were already in a state of drought emergency following similar declarations over the past several months.
The prevailing drought conditions in southern Oregon are attributed to low snowpack, lack of precipitation, low streamflows, and a trend of warming temperatures.
The Governor's office says that this latest declaration comes in May — Wildfire Awareness Month — as Oregon prepares for a busy fire season. Fire Season officially began in southwest Oregon on May 1, the earliest beginning in decades.
“As Oregon begins to slowly reopen our communities and economies, it is critical that every Oregonian do their part to mitigate and prevent wildfires," said Governor Brown. "It’s especially important we do our part to support our wildfire crews this year, as they face the prospect of mitigating threats on two fronts this season –– stopping the fires that endanger our homes and communities, and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in their wildfire camps."
Drought conditions and high temperatures are feared not only for their wildfire potential, but for their outsized impact on local agriculture, livestock, timber harvests, and local economies. A drought declaration gives counties greater flexibility in managing water supplies while directing state agencies to work with federal and local partners to assist the affected counties.
"Forecasted water conditions are not expected to improve through the summer months," the Governor's office said. "The Governor’s drought declaration authorizes state agencies to expedite water management tools to which users would not otherwise have access. As state and local officials coordinate with federal partners, conditions will be closely monitored by the state’s natural resource and public safety agencies, including the Oregon Water Resources Department and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management."