Office of Governor Gary Locke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 21, 2001
Contact: Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Drought threatens Western Washington cities as well as Eastern Washington agriculture, Locke says
AUBURN - Western Washington cities such as Auburn easily could be harmed by what may be the state's worst drought since record-keeping began in 1929, Gov. Gary Locke warned today.
Speaking to the Auburn Rotary Club at the Grace Community Church, Locke warned that precipitation is at or near low records throughout Washington and the mountain snow pack is about 50 percent of normal.
He said that springs may continue to supply Auburn with much of its water.
But, he warned, "Just to the north of here, the City of Kent already is experiencing a 30 percent water shortage. Bremerton and Sammamish also are experiencing water shortages."
"Not everyone in the state will be affected in the same way by this drought. But we are all in this together."
He said the drought's main threat is to the state's agricultural industry and the thousands of state jobs it supports.
"The state cannot erase the effects of a drought. We need to manage this crisis together - neighbors helping neighbors, towns helping towns, and farmers helping farmers," Locke said.
He said his drought declaration last week provides $5 million in assistance to farms, communities and fish. He added federal funds are expected to augment the state's $5 million.
The drought declaration also helps people with excess water to share it with people who don't have enough.
Locke said the water law reform legislation he has proposed also will help manage this year's drought if it is passed in time.
The governor said the price of electricity is another crisis threatening the state.
"This time last year, electricity cost us $20 to $40 a megawatt hour. Friday last week it was $250 a megawatt hour. As of yesterday, it was about $400. This price is likely to go even higher this summer," Locke said.
He called for the federal government to impose short-term, temporary wholesale price caps.
"The Bush Administration, unfortunately, doesn't support even temporary wholesale price caps. It wants more oil and gas exploration, but that will take five to 10 years. We can't wait five to 10 years," he said.
He urged the Rotary members to encourage their members of Congress and the Bush Administration to impose short-term, temporary price caps on the wholesale power market to stabilize it.
- Energy is Money. Think Before You Spend it.