Funding available to help Oregon landowners mitigate effects of drought

Submit applications to NRCS by June 26

PORTLAND, Ore. – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oregon announces up to $2.5 million in funding available to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to mitigate the effects of drought in counties that have secured drought declarations from the Governor’s Office.

At this time those counties are: Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Wasco and Wheeler. If additional counties receive a drought declaration they will also have the opportunity to apply for this funding.

Landowners in these counties should submit applications to their local USDA Service Center by June 26 to be considered for funding.

“This funding will help Oregonians in the most drought-stricken areas of the state to mitigate the impacts of drought on cropland, rangeland and forestland,” said Ron Alvarado, state conservationist. “This funding amplifies the work NRCS continues to do every day to support water conservation, soil health and productivity on Oregon’s working agricultural lands and forest lands.”


NRCS will give higher priority to applications in counties with the highest drought status according to the USDA Drought Monitor, however, producers in all counties declared by the Governor will be eligible to apply for funding. The USDA drought monitor is updated weekly every Thursday and classifies counties under five drought categories: D0 – Abnormally Dry; D1 – Moderate Drought; D2 – Severe Drought; D3 – Extreme Drought; and D4 – Exceptional Drought. All of Eastern Oregon is in a D2 or D3 drought status.

In Oregon, NRCS will focus the funding on cropland, rangeland and forestry conservation practices. For cropland practices, NRCS will assist producers with planting and managing cover crops and implementing emergency soil erosion measures. These practices will help farmers protect the soil from erosion, promote more organic matter in the soil, and aid in better water infiltration.

For rangeland practices, NRCS will assist ranchers in developing grazing management plans and installing emergency livestock watering facilities and multi-purpose water impoundments. These practices help reduce pressure on stressed vegetation, allow the soil to retain more moisture, and deliver emergency water supplies to livestock.

For forestry practices, NRCS will help landowners with wildfire prevention measures, such as creating fuel breaks, multi-purpose water impoundments and other fuel reduction activities. These actions reduce excess vegetation in a forest so that wildfire has less fuel to spread higher into the canopy, where it causes the most damage. NRCS is partnering with the Oregon Department of Forestry to focus the funding on areas with a higher risk for catastrophic forest fire (see map showing wildfire risk in Oregon).

The funding will be made available to eligible landowners through the NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This is a popular financial assistance program in the Farm Bill that allows NRCS to work directly with private landowners to implement conservation practices and reimburse landowners for a portion of the expense. Read more about EQIP eligibility, selection and payments on the Oregon EQIP webpage.

Applications will be ranked and prioritized for funding based on the drought level, resource concern, conservation benefit, and if applicable, the wildfire risk factor.

Landowners should submit applications by contacting their local USDA Service Center. A list of offices and contact information is available on the NRCS Oregon “Contact Us” webpage.

Oregon’s drought investment is part of a larger $21 million investment by NRCS nationwide, focused on the most severely drought-stricken areas in eight states: Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Oregon received $1.5 million of that nationwide investment. NRCS Oregon is making additional state funding available to assist producers during drought, bringing Oregon’s total available drought dollars to $2.5 million.

NRCS is also leveraging partner investments through the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to put further resources toward projects that foster water conservation and resilience. In the first round of RCPP funding last year, NRCS funded six projects in Oregon—two of those projects specifically address water conservation: 1) the White River Irrigation Efficiency and Stream Flow Restoration Project in Wasco County; and 2) the North Slope Ochoco Holistic Restoration Project in Wheeler County.

NRCS is also focused on reducing the threat of wildfire throughout Oregon’s forests, especially during drought conditions when wildfire becomes more prominent. NRCS is currently working with Oregon landowners on two large-scale projects as part of the Joint Chief’s Landscape Restoration Partnership. This is a partnership between two USDA agencies—NRCS and the Forest Service—to reduce wildfire threats and improve the health and resilience of forest ecosystems on public and private lands across the nation. Oregon’s two projects under this partnership are the East Face of the Elkhorn Mountains Project (Baker and Union counties) and the Ashland Forest All-Lands Restoration Project (Jackson County).

Learn more about NRCS conservation programs in Oregon by visiting



The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides financial and technical assistance to voluntary farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to implement conservation practices on private lands. By working collectively with partners and stakeholders, NRCS helps maintain healthy and productive working landscapes, benefitting both environmental and agricultural needs. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

Panel sends 7 county drought declarations to governor

SALEM, OR (AP) — The state Drought Council has endorsed seven more county drought declarations and sent them on to the governor.

Water Resources Department spokeswoman Racquel Rancier says the council on Thursday forwarded drought declarations from Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Morrow and Umatilla counties to the governor’s office.

The governor’s declaration allows increased flexibility in how water is managed to ensure that limited supplies are used as efficiently as possible.

According to the state Water Resources Department website, 14 of Oregon’s 36 counties have declared drought disasters, and the governor has followed up with declarations in seven of them.  Federal declarations, which make it possible to apply for drought loans and aid payments, have been made in 15 counties.

Oregon Drought Council Drought Declaration Status

Senator Merkley Town Hall Meetings


Contact:  Courtney Warner Crowell

April 30, 2015                                                                                       503-326-2747

E. OR Field Rep., Pendleton, Karen Wagner 541-278-1192



Town Halls are Saturday, May 16th in Irrigon and Hermiston

 Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley will hold town halls in Morrow and Umatilla Counties in the coming weeks.

 He will update constituents on his work in Washington, DC and answer their questions and invite their suggestions about how to tackle the challenges facing Oregon and America.

 “There are huge issues facing Oregonians and the best way for me to effectively advocate for Oregon’s families and businesses is by getting out on the road and holding a town hall in every county, every year to hear directly from Oregonians,” said Merkley.  “I invite all residents of Morrow and Umatilla Counties to come and discuss what we need to do to strengthen our state and nation.”

 Since joining the Senate in 2009, Merkley has held a town hall in each of Oregon’s 36 counties every year. Morrow and Umatilla Counties will be his 236th and 237th town halls as a U.S. Senator.

What:  Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley holds town hall in Morrow County.

 When:  Saturday, May 16, 2015, 10:00 am

 Where:  Irrigon Junior-Senior High School Cafeteria

315 W Wyoming Street, Irrigon, OR 97844


Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley holds town hall in Umatilla County.


Saturday, May 16, 2015, 12:30 pm


Hermiston High School Library

600 South First Street, Hermiston, OR 97838

Conservation a must in 2015

West Extension Irrigation District is already feeling the effects of the dry winter.  There was little to no snow pack in the Blue Mountains, which feed the Umatilla River, so water levels in the River have been steadily declining much sooner than usual.    WEID began using the Bureau of Reclamation’s Phase I Pumping Plant to pump Columbia River water into the canal about a month earlier than usual.

Some of this pumped water is “Exchange Water” which is pumped to us at no charge to the District.  This equals the amount of water that WEID leaves in the Umatilla River for fish purposes.  Any water needed above that amount, up to our allotment, we have to pay for.  This money comes out of our budget for pumping costs.

Last year pumping costs both for the main canal and the Irrigon system were much higher than anticipated or budgeted for.  This is why the Special Assessment went out at the end of the year.  The Board of Directors built that additional $2/acre in to this year’s budget with the anticipation this will cover the additional pumping costs that are associated with such a dry year.

Please review the conservation materials that came with your schedule and look on our Resources page for additional information.