<BR>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;County officials vote to accept drought emergency declaration


   County officials vote to accept drought emergency declaration

   County officials vote to accept drought emergency declaration
   There is no disaster involved in the declaration, but county officials want to be prepared for any eventuality
   As a precautionary measure, the Crook County Court has recognized the need for an official drought emergency declaration by the state.
   There is no disasters involved, County Judge Scott Cooper explained, and there are more advantages than disadvantages in approving the declaration. The question, he asked, is do we have a drought? Not now, but if we do in the future, the process for assistance is lengthy and this opens that door.
   In a letter sent to the county by Bob Main of the Oregon Water resources Department, the option of making a drought emergency declaration was made. Because, Main said, there are both pros and cons to such a declaration, the Oregon Drought Council prefers to wait for requests from local governments before initiating a recommendation to the governor.
   On the pro side, Main pointed out that a drought declaration is sometimes necessary before the state can provide assistance to agriculture and municipalities affected by drought. Also, there are drought emergency provisions in the state's water laws that allow for fast track processing of water use applications.
   On the down side, a drought declaration can discourage tourism and capital improvement markets. Operation loans for water dependent activities may be more difficult to obtain, also.
   Tourism losses in Crook County, at least when talking about Prineville Reservoir, will not be a problem this season, Cooper pointed out. Already all the facilities at the state park are booked solid, "and if all the lakes and reservoirs on the west side are down, we won't see a lack of tourists this summer."
   In adopting the declaration, the court agreed that there is no question that water supplies will be smaller than in recent years. Already the allocation to irrigators has been reduced from three acre-feet to two acre-feet (an acre foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre one foot deep). Looking back a few years: 1988-1994 was quite dry, then 1995-1999 was wet. Last year was considered fair and this year could be as dry as 1977.
   It is better, the court decided, to be prepared.