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88 Percent Of Idaho Is In A Moderate To Severe Drought

Drought, map, weather
U.S. Drought Monitor

Federal agencies have expanded how much of the Northwest they think is suffering from drought. Updated figures released Thursday shows 88 percent of Idaho's territory is now categorized in moderate to severe drought. Just over half of Oregon is similarly parched. Washington state is faring better with just a sliver - 2 percent -  classified in drought conditions.

This is the time of year when you expect warm and dry weather. What's coming home to roost now in large parts of the Northwest are the effects of a drier than normal winter and spring and snowpack that melted early, east of the Cascades. Some water reservoirs in southeastern Oregon and southern Idaho are already below 50 percent of capacity. Oregon Wheat Commission CEO Blake Rowe sees uneven effects as harvest time starts.

"Is it possible that some growers would take advantage of disaster loan programs? Certainly. But normal crop insurance is sort of the first line of defense," Rowe says.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter  signed two moredrought declarationsthis week, bringing to 13 the number of counties covered. Oregon's governor has declared drought emergencies in four counties. A drought designation allows the state to quickly process temporary water right changes. It also helps the process of getting federal disaster relief.

Copyright 2013 Northwest News Network

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition," "Weekday," and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

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