Legisletter – June 6th, 2015

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Call to Action on Emergency Drought Funding

Please Ask your Legislators to Pass SB 6125 NOW.

Due to an historically low snow pack, stream flows are expected to reach record lows all across the state this summer.


Our communities, fisheries and agricultural industries need help now. The Legislature can provide assistance by passing SB 6125 before the end of the second special session.


We need your help to make sure this important bill and funding does not get lost during the budget negotiations.


SB 6125 was introduced by Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside) after Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought last month. The bill would allocate $18 million to the State Drought Preparedness Account and require the Department of Ecology to prioritize resources for state drought response.


The severity of drought hardships and unmet needs could escalate if the legislature continues to play politics. Funding would go to irrigation districts, city and town water systems, and fisheries experiencing undue hardships. Instead of waiting for the final state budget to pass, this smart funding package would allow the Department of Ecology to begin drought response as soon as the bill is passed by the House and signed by the governor.


The drought declaration authorizes Ecology to issue emergency permits for water, approve temporary transfers of water rights, provide funding assistance to help ease drought conditions, and take other actions to address future drought conditions.


Though drought hardships are expected statewide, some basins are being hit harder and earlier than others.


West of the Cascades, extremely low Olympic Mountain snow pack is causing severe drought condition throughout the Olympic peninsula. The Elwha and Dungeness River watersheds are getting hit hard. The volume of snow-fed runoff to the Dungeness River is expected to be the lowest in 45 years, and Dungeness River steam flows are expected to be 43 percent of normal from April through September.  This drought is very serious.


Eastern Washington watersheds can also expect a rough summer. On May 29 the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued a revised water supply forecast of just 44 percent of normal for the Yakima basin. Wenatchee River flows are forecast at 55 percent of normal. Walla Walla River flows are also projected to be as low as 55 percent of normal, with snow pack at only 27 percent of normal. Past droughts of this severity caused very serious water supply problems for people, farms and fish.


Preparations need to be made now before junior water right holders get their water allocations reduced or cut off entirely.


Some irrigators already have currently inactive “drought wells” to provide emergency water supplies in times of drought. However, Ecology is not approving the use of these emergency wells until the Legislature appropriates funding and the agency acquires mitigation water to offset drought well impacts on senior water rights and stream flows.


WFB Call to Action! 

Time is of the essence. Please call or email your state legislators NOW. Please ask them to support SB 6125 and full funding in the budget to implement the bill.

Washington’s people, farms and fish can’t afford to wait any longer.


To find your legislator, click here.