OLYMPIA, Wash. — After denying farming groups’ requests since mid-June to declare several counties across Washington state as natural disaster drought emergency areas, Governor Jay Inslee did so today.
Inslee’s announcement said the state’s snowpack is at historic lows, rivers are dwindling and irrigation districts are having to cut off water to farmers. Inslee declared all Washington counties, except King and the southern half of Snohomish, to be included in the state of emergency status.
By declaring a drought emergency, affected farmers are provided access to needed resources to survive significant losses due to water shortages.
The Washington Department of Agriculture is projecting a $1.2 billion crop loss statewide this year as a result of the drought according to the Governor’s office.
Washington State 9th District (Ritzville) Senator Mark Schoesler said in a July 8th guest commentary to the East Washingtonian News, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers and Washington Grain Commission leaders had sent a letter to Governor Inslee on June 15th requesting he declare a drought emergency. Schoesler said the response came in a June 24th letter from Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson which “basically” turned down the request. Watson did provide information on how wheat farmers could seek federal assistance.
In early July, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack sent a letter to Inslee saying he was designating 14 Washington counties as primary natural disaster areas due to the recent drought.
The US Drought Monitor’s latest weekly update shows western Whatcom County to be experiencing “Moderate Drought” conditions and eastern Whatcom County to be experiencing “Abnormally Dry” conditions. These are the 2 least significant conditions and represent the status of most of western Washington. The Drought Monitor is a joint effort between the National Drought Mitigation Center, the USDA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Drought Monitor also reports 2021 is the driest year to date and this is the driest July for Whatcom County in 127 years with 1.5 inches less than normal for the year and 0.8 inches less than normal for July.