Gov. Walker declares drought emergency

42 Wisconsin counties under emergency
Gov. Walker declares drought emergency

Gov. Scott Walker declared a drought emergency for 42 Wisconsin counties on Monday. 

This declaration will speed up the permit process for farmers who want to use streams or lakes for irrigation. The Department of Natural Resources must inspect the stream or lake within three days of the request to ensure aquatic life will not be harmed.

“The lack of rainfall since May in the southern half of the state has hit hard in a crucial part of the growing season,” Walker said. “Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service reports this week that most of the land in these counties is short or very short of soil moisture.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor lists all or portions of 14 southern Wisconsin counties as experiencing a moderate drought. All or portions of 23 counties are considered abnormally dry.

Among the counties included in the drought emergency are Adams, Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Lafayette, Marquette, Portage, Richland, Rock and Sauk counties.

Walker’s administration also encouraged farmers to report crop conditions to their local U.S. Farm Service Agency officer. This information provides the basis for Gov. Walker to request a disaster declaration from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. If this declaration is made, low-cost emergency loans and other assistance would be available to farmers.

For help or more information, contact the Wisconsin Farm Center. Its phone number is 1-800-942-2474 and email is farmcenter@wisconsin.gov. The center’s staff can provide referrals and financial planning assistance to farmers.

Jonathan Martin, from the University of Wisconsin’s Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department, said it’s tough to explain why is has been so hot in Wisconsin this summer.

“We’ve had 19 days in Madison at or above 90 degrees. The record year was 1988, when we had 35 such days, and at this point in that year, we only had 13. So we’re way ahead of that pace,” Martin said. “Exactly why that’s the case is something that you’d have to go into the lab and really think about and figure out why that might be.”

Martin said the dry weather is easier to explain. He said with the heat drying up all the water, the atmosphere needs to make rain and this cycle is just feeding on itself.

The Wisconsin Weather Service recently pulled data from the last 140 years and found that if the state ends up having a winter that’s in the top 20 all-time warmest, there’s a 60 percent chance of having a warmer spring, and a 70 percent chance of having a warmer summer. Last winter was the third all-time warmest in state history, so the trend is holding true.