July 20, 2012
For Immediate Release
Governor Walker Tours Drought Damaged Areas
Entire state under State Drought Emergency, Federal Designation requested for 23 counties
Madison—Governor Scott Walker, along with state officials, toured parts of southern Wisconsin Friday to get a first-hand look of the damage done by weeks of too much heat and too little rain.
“It’s a powerless feeling for farmers, when mother nature deals a blow like this,” Governor Walker said. “It’s important for us to make sure they know we are here to assess all impacts of the drought and tap every possible resource to help in the recovery.”
Major General Donald Dunbar, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel, OCI Commissioner Ted Nickel, Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator Brian Satula, and state and local leaders joined Governor Walker on the tour. The group met with farmers and viewed damages from the air and the ground at the Jeff Ehrhart farm in Burlington and the Kyle Levetzow farm in Dodgeville.
The swath of heavy rain that swept over much of southern Wisconsin this week did little to improve drought conditions, and the National Weather Service forecast shows more hot and dry conditions in the coming days. The drought in southern and central parts of the state has been updated from severe to extreme by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
This week Governor Walker expanded the Drought Emergency Declaration statewide, and requested a Federal Designation for 23 Wisconsin counties that meet criteria for federal aid. The state has already issued 29 expedited irrigation permits and 22 high capacity well permits.
“Dairy farmers in particular are facing hardships,” Governor Walker said. “Not only does the heat result in lower milk production, but crop loss could lead to escalating costs for feed. We are monitoring these issues as well as the widespread complications that come from this severe weather situation.”
Among the drought dangers the state is facing is the escalated risk of wildfires. The DNR has responded to 300 wildfires since June 1 and 51 in just the past week. Emergency burning restrictions are in place in all or parts of 17 counties.
The state is responding to issues from low water levels in lakes and streams that have already resulted in fish loss, boating hazards and an increased risk of blue-green algae outbreaks. The DNR is also monitoring the risks of private well failures and damage to dams as a result of the reduction in water.
Following the tour, Governor Walker and the tour group met with other state officials from WHEDA, PSC, DOT, DHS, Tourism and bipartisan state leaders for a comprehensive drought damage roundtable discussion to maximize and coordinate the most efficient response, and plan for a short and long term recovery.
For information and resources to address widespread effects of the drought and record heat, go to http://ready.wi.gov/.