drought

WA lands commissioner reflects on 2021 wildfire season

Oct 6, 2021
Courtesy of National Interagency Fire Center

The wildfire season in the Inland Northwest is winding down. It was a season that began early and continued with intensity during the heat of July and August. More than a dozen big fires were regularly burning throughout the three states. The Methow and Yakima valleys experienced weeks of smoky air.

We asked Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz to compare the 2021 fire season with the 2020 version, which hit its peak during early September.

Wikimedia Commons

As drought conditions continue in Washington State, dry conditions and stagnating water are starting to impact Eastern Washington’s White Tail Deer population.

According to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, 50 deer have died outside of Colfax in the last few weeks from two drought related illnesses.

Two diseases are impacting Washington’s White Tail deer population this summer, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease – or EHD and Blue Tongue.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The drought conditions in the Inland Northwest are changing the way Avista manages the Spokane River system this summer.

The utility has announced that, due to lower-than-normal water levels in Lake Coeur d’Alene, it plans to release less water through its Post Falls Dam.

Spokane has received about half of the precipitation it normally receives by this time in the summer.

Since January 1, the city has seen only 4.88" of precipitation. The 30-year average is 9.58" for the same time frame. Even so, this year comes in as the fourth driest on record for that time period.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Coeur d'Alene water officials say the hot weather this summer has translated into much higher water usage by residents. They're hoping they can convince people to conserve the precious resource.

TVW screenshot

As wildfires burn around Washington, the state’s Department of Ecology has declared a climate emergency for most of the state. During a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee said most of the state is unnaturally dry.

Evacuation Ordered For 250-Acre Fire Outside Cheney

Jul 5, 2021
Spokane Fire District 8 Firefighters

Firefighters worked overnight to contain a wildfire burning near Cheney.

As of Monday evening, the Andrus Road fire had charred more than 250 acres, according to a tweet from Washington State Patrol Jeff Sevigney. It’s burning near the Marshall Cemetery.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

For the second year in a row, Fourth of July public fireworks displays were cancelled in the Spokane area. But they may return later this summer.

Courtesy of City of Spokane

The worst of the heat wave appears to have passed, but what’s left of it is taking much of the sizzle out of Fourth of July celebrations. Fire officials are discouraging people from discharging their own fireworks and now, even professional shows have been cancelled.

Anna King/Northwest News Network

Northwest farmers are pouring on the water to moisten soils ahead of the triple-digit temperatures and possible record highs expected this weekend.

As the temperature climbs, Drex Gauntt in Washington’s Walla Walla County has some baby sweet corn he’s pretty worried about.

SPR Reporter and regional Morning Edition Host Steve Jackson moderated a special community forum about the state of our region's water supply on Thursday Sep. 24 at the Spokane City Hall Council Chambers.

Questions were fielded by the following panelists:

  • Guy Gregory, Washington Dept. of Ecology Water Resources Program
  • Rob Lindsay, Spokane County Water Resources Manager
  • Rachael Paschal Osborn, Center for Environmental Law Senior Policy Adviser
  • Rick Romero, City of Spokane Utilities Director
  • Jon Snyder, Spokane City Councilman

The forum was funded by event donor Sayre, Sayre & Fossum, Attorneys at Law and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Special thanks to producing partner CityCable5.

Judging by some of the most pessimistic reports from California these days, the place is doomed. You can read all about the folly of trying to build cities in a desert.

Just this week, economists at the University of California, Davis, estimated that water shortages will cost the state's economy $2.7 billion this year. Many farmers are limiting the economic damage by ransacking the environment instead, draining underground aquifers.

Mt. Hood’s Timberline Resort is the only place offering a full summer ski season in North America. But not this year. The resort closed to the public on August 2 -- five weeks earlier than normal. And that’s after a dismal winter ski season.

Spokane River
Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

Some environmentalists are urging Spokane residents to conserve water this summer, in an effort to help the Spokane River. At a location along the river called “Three Springs,” water conservation advocates made their case for a public effort to slow down on their water use.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gregraisman/sets/72157601851711041

Slowly - too slowly for the naked eye to discern - Lake Coeur d'Alene is shrinking, dropping below the normal summertime lake-full level. And that puts Avista Utilities in a bind.

When it comes to watering your lawn during drought and wildfire season, what’s the sweet spot between water conservation and fire hazard?

As drought conditions worsen across the state, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order Tuesday to help conserve water.

Firefighters on the Blue Creek Fire burning just outside of Walla Walla are intensifying their fight to hold a line and keep the wildfire out of a watershed and residential area. Correspondent Anna King describes the scene:

Farms and fish aren’t the only ones suffering from Northwest drought conditions. So are trees and plants on Washington’s 435-acre Capitol campus.

Four hundred firefighters attacked the Blue Creek wildfire 10 miles east of Walla Walla, Washington, Tuesday. The wind and dry ground let it grow up to 4,200 acres.

Ecology Amends Reclaimed Water and Purple Pipe Rules

Jul 20, 2015

The purple pipe could be a local solution for Washington drought problems. The state Department of Ecology is hoping to offset water shortages by encouraging municipalities to use reclaimed water, often fed through purple pipe.

'No Fishing' Signs Posted in Hot, Dry Summer

Jul 20, 2015

Ordinarily, summertime and fishing in Washington are almost synonymous. Not this year. First, there's not enough water in Washington's rivers and creeks. Second, the water remaining is becoming too hot for fish - especially salmon - to survive.

Washington is getting less rain than Phoenix, Arizona, state Ecology Danager Maia Bellon said during a press conference in Lacey Friday.

Sheriffs officers are combing through a neighborhood in the central Washington city of Wenatchee Monday morning. They're trying to figure out exactly how many homes were destroyed in the so-called Sleepy Hollow Fire.

People were evacuated from several dozen houses nestled in canyons above Wenatchee. 

Idaho farmers who depend on irrigation fear they're facing shortages, summer shut-offs and possible legal battles because of paltry snowpacks, scant rainfall and dry soil. A new report by the Natural Resources Conservation Service paints a gloomy outlook for agricultural interests, the primary economic drivers in central, southern and southeastern Idaho.

Washington Drought
Department of Ecology

Friday, Washington’s governor declared a drought emergency in about 44 percent of the state, and the Department of Ecology has taken the lead on preparedness.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee Friday significantly expanded a drought declaration due to dwindling snowpack.

Farmers who depend on irrigation in the arid central Washington region are escalating a fight over increasingly  scarce water supplies. A group of farmers called the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association has filed suit against the US Bureau of Reclamation.