Some Parts of Idaho Declared Drought Disaster Areas

By Tom Bacon

Given the amount of rain and snow in eastern Washington and the Idaho panhandle this month. it may hard to think of a drought disaster area in the rich farm region of southern Idaho.

Elmore County, an arid, sparsely populated county just east of Boise, has been declared a primary natural disaster area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of drought. It joins eight other southern and central Idaho counties on the federal natural disaster list. The declaration makes it easier for farmers in those counties to apply for low interest emergency loans to cover at least part of their actual losses from drought.

National Weather Service forecasters said that abundant rain and high-elevation snow fell earlier this month, but that long-standing moisture deficits, low reservoir levels and low snowpack are the dominant problems in southern Idaho and southeastern Oregon. They've classified the Magic Valley in south central Idaho as in extreme drought, meaning that surface irrigation shortages are likely to occur later in the spring and summer, especially in the Oywee Basin.

Idaho energy regulators have already approved a whopping power supply expense - more than a hundred-five million dollars - for Idaho Power which serves most of the drought-affected region. And much of that cost is blamed on less water flowing through hydropower generators last year - a problem that will likely be repeated this year.
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