The Beaverhead County Drought Task Force met today at 11 AM in the county commissioners’ meeting room at the court house. Among those in attendance were representatives from the Beaverhead County Commissioners, the City of Dillon, the Joint Board for Clark Canyon Water Supply Company (CCWSC) and East Bench Irrigation District (EBID), the Beaverhead Watershed Committee, MSU Extension, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service. Hydrologist Gina Loss of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Great Falls office presented data and forecasts for local climate and water supply. (Presentation can be viewed here). To summarize the presentation, Beaverhead County has had an unusually warm and dry start to 2015 and there appears to be little relief in sight. These conditions have forced CCWSC and EBID irrigators to enact 2nd order allotment reductions as part of their drought management plan. A tough year for irrigators will likely have economic implications for the rest of the community.
The opportunity for local, state, and federal entities to convene and share drought impact information through the Beaverhead County Drought Task Force meetings is a very important step in the drought response and mitigation process. There are many counties in Montana that do not have this level of organized coordination regarding drought. The Beaverhead Watershed Committee is interested in building on this coordination by working with the county drought task force to create a Beaverhead County Drought Plan. A Beaverhead County Drought Plan could provide a more locally relevant guide to drought planning than the State of Montana Drought Plan, which lacks specific framework and action items that can be implemented at the local level. The alarming situation in California is a prime example of why it is important for agricultural communities to be as prepared as possible for drought conditions. For more information about why it is important to plan for drought in Beaverhead County, and what kind of action can be taken to protect against drought, please see this Drought Task Force Handout provided by the Beaverhead Watershed Committee.
The next meeting of the Beaverhead County Drought Task Force will be held on Monday, May 11th at 11 AM in the county commissioners meeting room at the court house. The task force meets monthly and meetings are open to the public.