The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners made a declaration of local disaster request to the Governor for drought conditions throughout Lincoln County. Forecasts show that annual water supplies available for farm, forest, recreation and natural uses as well as municipal water supplies within Lincoln County are a function of available water in the County watersheds and in various tributaries. Water supplies are in serious jeopardy this year; and the Seasonal Climate Forecast for August through October 2023 predicts below average precipitation for the Oregon Coast and above average temperatures for August and below average precipitation for September.
The Siletz River as of July 23, is flowing at 83 cubic feet per second (CFS) at the USGS gaging station upstream of Siletz which is 46% of average for this date. The Alsea River is discharging 113 CFS, which is 70% of average for this date and the Yachats River is flowing at 17.3 CFS on July 22, which is 66.2% of average for July. Historically the next two months are usually the driest time period for our region with significant rainfall not occurring until late September or early October.
Another concern with low water is fire danger. In September of 2020 Lincoln County and the State of Oregon experienced one of the most severe wildfire seasons in the County's history. The Echo Mountain Complex Wildfire ravaged a large area of north Lincoln County, destroying or damaging over 300 residences and structures, and requiring the evacuations of thousands of persons. Survivors are still engaged in recovery and rebuilding as another fire season is imminent. Public fire danger in the Western Oregon District is "Moderate."
Multiple priority instream water rights on the Siletz River have already been invoked to protect the aquatic life, recreation and fish and wildlife flows protected by those priority rights. Junior rights holders have been regulated off use of their water rights and will not be able to draw water in those circumstances. This will result in a loss of economic stability, lost growing season, and decreased water supplies for Lincoln County agricultural producers and municipal water suppliers. In addition, river water temperatures are already at unseasonable highs and restricted fishing access will likely be put in place very soon to protect fish stocks.
The declaration opens up that if response to the drought is beyond what Lincoln County can do than they are able to ask for state help. This will enable if needed help for businesses, farms and those who are on wells to get help needed for water sources. With the declaration the county asks Governor to declare a Drought Emergency for all of Lincoln County and direct the Oregon Department of Water Resources to make available in Lincoln County appropriate and available tools and resources to alleviate drought conditions and impacts. It would also allow providing federal and state drought assistance and programs as needed.