Washington Gov. Locke expected to declare drought

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March 13, 2001

Washington Gov. Locke expected to declare drought

PORTLAND - Either visually or verbally we've been warned.

Until now the drought spotlight has been focused on electricity and salmon. But Wednesday, Washington Governor Gary Locke could officially focus drought directly on your tap.

Locke is expected to declare a drought tomorrow in Washington state.

In a land linked to rust and rain it could mean unusual steps, like forcing restaurants to serve water only when customers ask for it.

"A lot of people get mad if you don't bring water right away to the table, it's something they come to expect when they come to a restaurant," said waiter Brandon Mitchell. The drought declaration could help communities like Cowlitz County save water. It gets most of its drinking supply from the Cowlitz River. rivers and reservoirs have been the hardest hit by the drought.. Extreme conservation may actually be overkill in areas like Clark County, which gets most of its water from wells.

"Those aquifers haven't been affected as yet by the drought, they will be if it continues for another year or two but at this point there hasn't been an affect," explained Clark Public Utilities Mick Shutt.

So far no word on an Oregon drought announcement.

We're told Portland's Bull Run water system is doing fine. It depends on spring rain - and there are back-up wells if the drought persists. Other parts of Oregon may not be so lucky.

Columbia Basin Farmers threaten civil disobedience Some irrigators in the Columbia River Basin Say they won't turn off their pumps this summer, even if the state orders them to shut down.

Darryll Olsen, a consultant for the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association, says farmers can't simply walk away from the financial investments they have in the Irrigation systems. The irrigators hope the situation doesn't come down to civil disobedience. Along with some state legislators, they are pressuring Governor Gary Locke and the state Ecology Department to call off a plan that would cut water to about 200 irrigators, and could bankrupt some of them. Locke is expected to make an official drought declaration Wednesday. But eight Republican senators wrote to him over the weekend, warning that cutting off irrigation water could create "another dust bowl" in Washington.

The most recent analysis shows the Columbia River will fall below minimum flows in July, August and September, which means the state might curtail water use at the height of the summer.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 14, 2001


03/14/2001 - Updated 04:03 PM ET Drought emergency declared in Washington ALDER, Wash. (AP) Gov. Gary Locke on Wednesday declared a statewide drought emergency, a move that will free up state funds for water and ease transfers of some water rights.

"This is already the worst drought in our state since 1977, and it's only March," Locke said. "We'll probably beat that record soon."

Locke drove his point home by making the announcement in the now-dry swimming area of Alder Lake, a hydropower source about 35 miles southeast of Olympia. The lake is not completely dry, but the area where Locke stood is usually under 12 feet of water.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 14, 2001.

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