Schoesler says Washington drought emergency declaration “long overdue”

Sen. Mark Schoesler

State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, says he is relieved that Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration today finally announced a drought emergency declaration for eastern Washington as well as most of the west side of the state, but Schoesler pointed out the governor should have declared a drought emergency for eastern Washington several weeks ago.

“While the governor’s drought declaration is welcome and expected news, it is long overdue for our part of the state,” said Schoesler, a wheat farmer whose 9th Legislative District includes several counties that have faced drought conditions for months. “Farmers throughout eastern Washington have known since early this spring that we are facing a serious drought problem in our region, and the very hot and dry summer so far has just made it worse. It’s nice that the governor is finally recognizing how serious this problem really is for both sides of our state. But it’s disappointing and frustrating that it’s taken him this long to recognize and act on a problem that we’ve seen and endured in our region for months.”

According to a news release today by the state Department of Ecology, which issued the drought emergency declaration, a drought emergency means water supply is projected to be below 75 percent of average. A formal drought declaration authorizes DOE to take certain measures for the purpose of providing emergency drought relief:

  • Expedite processing for emergency drought permits.
  • Process temporary transfers of water rights.
  • Provide funding assistance for public entities.
  • Hold public education workshops.

“Several weeks ago, wheat officials wrote to the governor, asking him to declare a drought emergency for eastern Washington, but DOE responded by saying the state wouldn’t make a drought declaration. During the news conference today announcing the drought emergency declaration, the governor was asked why he previously rejected farmers’ requests for such a declaration. He said he needed to wait for scientific information on it to ‘mature.’ His response is ridiculous, because over in our part of the state, we’ve seen the effects of the drought for months. While I’m glad Jay Inslee is finally taking action on this drought, he should have acted much sooner.”

Inslee said the Everett, Seattle and Tacoma metro areas are excluded from the drought emergency declaration. The DOE news release said the three central Puget Sound cities “are expected to have sufficient water storage to meet residential and commercial needs through the summer, and to maintain adequate water levels in nearby rivers to protect fish.”