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Leavitt declares statewide drought, activates Utah's emergency management operations

Last Wednesday, Governor Mike Leavitt officially declared a statewide drought emergency situation at all locations across Utah.

The governor's declaration will open the door for eligible agricultural producers operating throughout the state to qualify for related financial assistance.

The funding will allow qualifying agricultural producers the opportunity to recoup a portion of the financial losses associated directly with the drought, according to state officials.

Dated April 24, the document cites the following reasons for declaring the statewide emergency:

•Severe drought conditions exist and continue to worsen in the state of Utah.

The extremely dry conditions present a serious threat to human health and safety for all Utahns, private property, wildlife, agriculture, the environment and the economy of the entire state.

•The current drought conditions have caused and will continue to cause adverse effects to agricultural producers, wildlife and the tourism industry throughout the state.

In addition, the severe drought conditions pose a serious, potential threat to meeting the culinary water needs of residents.

•The severe drought has reduced soil moisture, stream flows and ground water across Utah.

In addition, the extremely dry conditions have resulted in significantly reduced water storage levels at reservoirs throughout the state and could result in agricultural losses into the tens of millions of dollars.

•The potential for wildfires occurring in the mountain and remote area throughout Utah is extremely high.

And the availability of fire-fighting resources is expected to be limited as drought conditions persist and worsen throughout the entire western part of the United States, including Utah.

•Utah is suffering the negative effects created by four consecutive years of drought conditions.

The situation has the potential to greatly worsen throughout the state if left unattended.

•Immediate action is required to protect the health and safety of all Utahns.

Immediate action is also necessary to protect public and private property, wildlife, agriculture and the environment.

•The existing drought conditions constitute a statewide emergency within the intent of the Disaster Response and Recovery Act of 1981.

The declaration specified that a state of emergency and statewide agricultural disaster exist throughout Utah.

The situation constitutes a disaster requiring aid, assistance and relief available pursuant to the provisions of state statute and Utah's emergency operations plan.

In conclusion, the governor's declaration activates Utah's emergency operations plan and specifies that comprehensive management efforts "shall coordinate drought relief efforts with federal, state and local entities."

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