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Know the West

Drought for the Northwest

  Although snowpack levels throughout the West are average or better this year, the Northwest faces another year of drought. As of mid-May, the water content in Washington's and Oregon's snowpack was between 20 and 59 percent of normal, while precipitation in the Snake River Basin averaged just half of normal. Low reservoir levels and trickling streamflows are making it tough for the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to meet promised streamflows for migrating salmon. Washington farmers are also under the gun. Recently, Washington Gov. Mike Lowry declared a drought emergency in the Yakima River Basin, a condition which permits the state Department of Ecology to quickly approve requests to operate emergency wells, drill new ones or temporarily transfer water rights, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Doug McChesney, an Ecology Department planner, says, "This year there is going to be some pain."