Emergency declared

Monday, June 3, 2002

LINCOLN -- Governor Mike Johanns announced today that he signed a proclamation last Friday declaring a state of emergency in Nebraska with regard to the drought. The Governor also announced the next meeting of the drought management team and recapped federal assistance approved thus far for agriculture to help with drought conditions.

Johanns has been closely monitoring drought conditions and toured drought stricken areas of Western Nebraska on May 2. That tour included visits to Swanson Reservoir near Trenton in southwest Nebraska and to Farmer's Irrigation District Canal north of Scottsbluff in the panhandle.

According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, much of Western Nebraska is experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions.

Gov. Johanns said, "Despite occasional rain storms in western areas of our State and decent rainfall in eastern Nebraska, many Nebraskans are facing widespread and severe drought conditions. This emergency declaration means that state government is prepared to assist communities in dealing with drought related emergencies. The key word is teamwork, and the state is going to be a partner in assisting communities in addressing drought issues."

Johanns continued, "The declaration activates a system that will allow the state to assist local jurisdictions in rapidly dealing with drought-related problems. An inventory will be taken of public and private resources available within Nebraska and regionally to address drought issues. At the same time, a communications network is being activated and enhanced to allow for timely collection of information from -- and distribution of information to -- local jurisdictions including cities and counties, for example."

Adjutant General Roger Lempke, director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, said, "NEMA is on alert status. This means specific personnel are now assigned to monitor the state through contact with local jurisdictions and other state agencies."

The emergency declaration also authorizes the use of the Governor's Emergency Fund to assist local jurisdictions with emergency needs. The fund's use is limited to public or government needs and cannot be used for private or individual needs.

The governor's emergency declaration activates the State Emergency Operations Plan to address unmet needs brought on by the drought and directs State and appropriate Federal agencies to cooperate with Nebraska's Adjutant General upon his request to provide the appropriate assistance.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is the lead agency under the declaration and will utilize the SEOP to coordinate the State's response to requests for assistance. There are nine emergency support functions that are activated by a governor's emergency declaration, including transportation, communications, public works/utilities, fire suppression, information/planning, mass care, law enforcement, health and medical, and urban search and rescue. One state department/agency is designated with the responsibility for coordinating response activities for the assigned ESF.

The governor also formally announced that, similar to the severe drought two years ago, a drought management team made up of officials from more than a dozen state agencies will assist in recommending and coordinating drought response activity. The drought team met for the first time this year on May 8 and will now begin to meet on a regular basis. The next scheduled meeting is Monday, June 10.

The governor's drought management team includes representatives of the state departments of Agriculture, Roads, Water Resources, Health and Human Services, and Environmental Quality. In addition, the Game & Parks Commission, Fire Marshal's Office, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, State Patrol, Natural Resources Commission, Governor's Office, Governor's Policy Research Office, and the Attorney General are represented on the team. The management group will meet every two weeks to provide an update on drought conditions and responses, make recommendations to the governor, and coordinate any necessary action.

"I also want to acknowledge the important role that the Climate Assessment Response Committee (CARC) plays in assessing the drought situation and providing information about the dry conditions," said Johanns. "CARC continues to play a key role in assessing and reporting conditions to the public and to the drought management team."

The Governor also recapped the federal drought assistance for agriculture producers announced in recent weeks.

Counties named primary disaster areas due to drought, unseasonably cold spring temperatures, high winds and frost, include: Banner, Chase, Cheyenne, Custer, Dawson, Deuel, Dundy, Frontier, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Kimball, Perkins, Red Willow, Scotts Bluff, and Sioux counties.

Additional Nebraska counties eligible for assistance because they are contiguous to the primary disaster areas include: Arthur, Blaine, Box Butte, Buffalo, Dawes, Furnas, Garden, Garfield, Gosper, Lincoln, Logan, Loup, McPherson, Morrill, Phelps, Sherman, and Valley counties.

Altogether that makes for 16 counties designated as a primary disaster area and 17 counties designated as contiguous to the primary disaster areas for 33 total counties in central and western Nebraska. The primary federal assistance available at this time for agriculture producers in these counties is low-interest loans.

Counties that have been released for Conservation Reserve Program emergency grazing include: Arthur, Banner, Chase, Cheyenne, Deuel, Garden, Hayes, Keith, Kimball, Perkins, Scotts Bluff, and Sioux counties. A total of 12 counties have been given this designation.

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