Mahaska Remains Under Moderate Drought Conditions

Indications of stress to crops continues as the moderate drought continues

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The thought of a lack of rain seems very foreign to most residents in Mahaska County, because for the past few years flooding has been the normal.

A newly issued burn ban for Mahaska County shows just how dry things have become, and with the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook forecasting the drought to continue, even intensify, through mid September, a lift on the burn ban seems unlikely. Mahaska County is currently listed as being in a Moderate Drought condition.

From July 4th to July 10th, less than 25% of normal precipitation fell over most of Iowa according to the National Weather Service. Over the past 60 days, the area has received up to 70% of normal rainfall, and the trend has been in place for the past year.

A quick visit to Eveland Access, south of Beacon, shows the Des Moines River at just a fraction of what it was during flooding two years ago. Sandbars lay exposed to the baking rays of the sun, as only the most experienced of boaters attempt to navigate the main channel of the river.

The South Skunk River flow is much below normal according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). According to the National Weather Service (NWS), ” Stream flows across the eastern three-fourths of Iowa are below normal. Stream flows are much below normal across portions of the Skunk River basin in central and southeastern Iowa, as well as portions of the Fox River basin in southeastern Iowa.”

Laura DeCook, Mahaska County Conservation, said that the largest impact the weather has had so far on recreational usage has been from the heat, fewer campers making their way out to enjoy some time in the great outdoors.

DeCook said she isn’t aware of any boat ramp closures because of low water levels, and that other fishing opportunities await the angler. Anglers now have more access to areas of rivers, ponds and lakes that they might not normally have because they can simply walk to the locations.

One handicap dock at Russell Wildlife does need adjusted into the water to allow those anglers better access to the water. “We’ve lost a lot of water out of the ponds, especially here at Russell Wildlife,” DeCook said.

Close to home, no problems with drinking water levels or even any water conservation steps are being taken, but the Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission, that includes 24 communities, has asked for people to follow a few conservation steps. Also, Ames Mayor Ann Campbell signed a proclamation asking for people to be smart about their water usage.

In the State of Iowa, farmers are facing the worst drought in 25 years. Governor Branstad will hold a two-hour public meeting on the severe dry and D1 Drought conditions that have plagued Iowa this summer.

According to the USDA, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a package of program improvements that will deliver faster and more flexible assistance to farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disasters. Vilsack announced three significant improvements to decades-old USDA programs and processes related to Secretarial disaster designations: a final rule that simplifies the process for Secretarial disaster designations and will result in a 40 percent reduction in processing time for most counties affected by disasters; a reduced interest rate for emergency loans that effectively lowers the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent; and a payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent.”

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