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GOV. GARDNER CALLS EMERGENCY MEETING TO PREPARE FOR POSSIBLE DROUGHT

GOV. GARDNER CALLS EMERGENCY MEETING TO PREPARE FOR POSSIBLE DROUGHT
 OLYMPIA, Wash., April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Faced with one of the worst droughts on record, Gov. Booth Gardner today called an emergency meeting of state, federal and local agencies to develop a response plan.
 Snowpacks are averaging far less than 70 percent of normal levels, and unless it rains most of the summer, officials expect substantially less water to be available than during the last drought in 1987.
 Although precipitation this winter has averaged about 80 percent of normal, unseasonably warm weather this spring has decimated the snowpack, leaving little water in reserve. The Cascade snowpack ranges from 66 percent of normal at Mt. Rainier (116 inches compared to an average 175 inches) to 0 percent of normal at Snoqualmie Pass (no snow compared to a 67-inch average), according to the National Weather Service. Mt. Baker has 47 percent of average, or 83 inches instead of 176.
 Doug McChesney, water resources planner for the state Department of Ecology, said the purpose of the meeting was to establish a process for establishing priorities for the use of water supplies. Under state law, the governor can declare drought conditions that trigger water rationing that would affect the amount of water available for agriculture, power generation, drinking water and fisheries.
 McChesney said he is cautiously optimistic that the governor won't have to declare a drought condition. He noted that the weather typically is unpredictable and rainfall during April has been close to normal, so there still is a chance the outlook will improve. And as the average rainfall tends to decline anyway in the late spring, it limits how much further behind the region could fall.
 McChesney said efforts to preserve the dwindling fisheries resource further complicate the picture.
 "I think anytime you see a limitation in the resource, there's going to be competition for what there is available, and certainly with the additional attention given to fish issues these days, it's going to be all the more intensified if there isn't enough water to satisfy all needs this year, and unfortunately that appears to be the situation as we now stand," he said.
 -0- 4/16/92
 /CONTACT: Mike Gowrylow of the Washington State Governor's Office, 206-753-6790/ CO: Washington State Governor's Office ST: Washington IN: SU:


SC-JH -- SE013 -- 9608 04/16/92 20:21 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 16, 1992
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