WENATCHEE, Wash. — Rivers and streams on the east slopes of Washington’s Cascade Mountains should have adequate flow for agricultural irrigators, but several counties have been declared drought areas.
Benton and Franklin counties were designated drought disaster areas May 14 by the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Walla Walla, Lincoln and Chelan were designated on May 28. The action makes low-interest loans available to farmers and ranchers from the Farm Service Agency.
Benton, Franklin, Lincoln and Walla Walla counties all have dryland areas that lack adequate moisture, but inclusion of Chelan County on the list is puzzling since it has little dryland farming, said Scott Pattee, Natural Resource Conservation Service water supply specialist for Washington.
FSA officials could not be reached for comment.
Mountain reservoirs are nearly full and remaining snowpack is melting at a normal rate of 1 to 2 inches of water per day so irrigation should be adequate even while the final forecast is below normal for several east-slope rivers, Pattee said.
Tree fruit, hay, hops and wine grapes depend on the rivers, some of which have no reservoirs.
Pattee issued his final streamflow forecast for the year predicting June through September flows. Snowpack below 5,000 feet elevation is basically gone and was poor all season, he said. High elevation snowpack climbed above normal late in the season and has been melting gradually, he said. Snowpack is 110 percent of normal at this point although it is a somewhat ambiguous number this late, he said. The April and May runoff rush has slowed somewhat, he said.
The Okanogan River at Malott, fueled by good Canadian snowpack, is forecast at 134 percent of normal flow for June through September, he said.
The Methow River at Pateros is forecast for 88 percent which should be enough for the season, Pattee said.
Other Upper Columbia tributaries and the predicted percentage of normal flow:
• Chelan, 92 percent.
• Entiat at Ardenvoir, 98 percent.
• Wenatchee at Peshastin, 115 percent.
• Icicle Creek near Leavenworth, 109 percent.
Lower Columbia tributaries and the predicted percentage of normal flow:
• Upper Yakima at Cle Elum, 85 percent.
• Teanaway near Cle Elum, 103 percent.
• Kachless, Keechelus and Cle Elum lake inflows, 86 percent
• Lower Yakima, American River near Nile, 73 percent.
• Naches at Naches, 80 percent.
• Yakima at Parker, 84 percent.
• Ahtanum at Union Gap, 65 percent.
• Klickitat near Pitt, 92 percent.
“As far as I know, it’s all good for irrigators,” Pattee said.