Oregon Governor Expands Drought Declaration

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2015 file photo, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown speaks to the media outside of her office at th
FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2015 file photo, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown speaks to the media outside of her office at the Oregon Capitol in Salem, Ore. Brown faces a monumental challenge as she takes the reins of a state government mired in scandal on less than a week’s notice and with a special election already looming. America’s first bisexual governor will be sworn in Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, becoming Oregon’s 38th leader after fellow Democrat John Kitzhaber resigned amid ethics questions. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez, file)

By Courtney Sherwood

PORTLAND, Ore., April 6 (Reuters) - Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared a drought emergency on Monday in three southern and central Oregon counties, expanding upon earlier drought declarations the Democrat made in March, as the state faces record low snowpack levels.

Continuing drought has caused "natural and economic disaster conditions" in Oregon's Crook, Harney and Klamath counties, heightening wildfire risk, and threatening wildlife and agriculture, Brown said in her declaration.

"Oregon's unusually warm and dry winter has potentially dire consequences," Brown said on Monday.

The drought declarations in Oregon come as below-average rain and snow levels have threatened agriculture in parts of the U.S. West.

A spring storm was expected to bring several inches (cm) of rain to some areas of drought-parched California and up to two feet (60 cm) of snow to mountains beginning late on Monday, just days after Governor Jerry Brown ordered sweeping cuts in water use.

In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee last month declared drought emergencies for regions of his state, north of Oregon.

Brown has placed Malheur and Lake counties in southeastern Oregon under drought emergency since mid-March.

According to Oregon's Water Resources Department, snowpack statewide is at less than 50 percent of its normal level, and a number of lakes and reservoirs are nearly empty, posing threats to endangered fish within the region.

In some cases, the drought has also uncovered long-buried historic sites.

The town of Klamath Junction, which was abandoned in 1960 to make way for an irrigation project and had been under water for more than half a century, has been gradually re-emerging since late last year.

Building foundations and scattered debris are now visible on a muddy plain that is normally under water. (Reporting by Courtney Sherwood; Editing by Sandra Maler)



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