Martha’s Vineyard hit by ‘significant drought’

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Beth Card said in a Wednesday, August 24 press release that Level 2 (significant) to Level 3 (critical) droughts were raging across the State.

Martha’s Vineyard began to know Level 1 (mild) drought in May. Today, Martha’s Vineyard faces significant levels of drought. Nantucket, the Elizabethan Islands, and western Massachusetts are also experiencing the same. The rest of Massachusetts is facing critical levels of drought. When an area experiences significant or worse levels of drought, the Interagency Drought Management Working Group meets to “more closely coordinate drought assessments, impacts and response across government”. The statement said this effort is in addition to actions intended for moderate drought levels, including recommendations for “detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, and technical outreach and assistance.” to affected municipalities. These measures are taken on the basis of the guidelines of the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan.

“Massachusetts continues to experience drought conditions in all regions of the state, which not only deplete public water supplies, but also increase the risk of wildfires,” Card said in the statement. “It is essential that we all practice water conservation methods and adhere to local requirements to reduce stress on our water systems and ensure that essential needs, such as drinking water, habitats and fire suppression, are satisfied.”

Lack of rain is a big contributor to drought. According to the statement, the state experienced between a half inch and an inch of rain between Aug. 1 and Aug. 22. August also saw below average rainfall levels which affected the islands. River flows were also affected by “extremely low flows across the state, where dry stream beds, increased ponds, higher temperatures in rivers, and increased nutrient and nutrient blooms ‘algae occur’. Additionally, groundwater levels have declined in Massachusetts, the statement said.

“We definitely noticed the drought,” Adam Moore, executive director of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, told The Times. Moore said water levels in ponds and streams on the foundation’s properties had dropped and he had noticed leaves on trees, such as sassafras, changing color as early as July. “We are concerned about the increased risk of fire.”

The drought is causing increased risk of fires and difficulties in managing them, leading the Department of Conservation and Recreation to implement a “temporary ban on all open flame and charcoal fires in the state park properties,” the statement said. Small portable propane grills will still be permitted in campgrounds and recreation areas where grilling is permitted.

Chilmark Police Chief Jeremy Bradshaw told The Times that everyone will need to be aware of the fire hazard during ‘long spells of dry weather’ – and the wind.

“All we do is make sure our stuff is ready,” Bradshaw said, listing equipment such as trucks and water canisters. “Everyone is aware and on high alert.”

Part of the planning comes from 254-page “Dukes County Wildfire Protection Plan” that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission released last year. The plan listed Chilmark, Edgartown and West Tisbury as the towns with higher risk of forest fires.

“We certainly have a lot of areas on the island with concern,” Bradshaw said. Cooperation between various local and state agencies helps keep the island ready. Bradshaw told The Times that the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is “good at informing” fire departments of concerns and mitigation efforts, such as planned burns to reduce fuel loads or objects. flammable on the ground.

The agricultural sector has also been impacted by the state’s drought conditions, experiencing “the depletion of water sources and production acreage, irrigating crops more consistently due to the current rainfall deficits, high temperatures high, low soil moisture and significantly increased operating costs due to increased labor, equipment maintenance and increased irrigation,” the statement said. .

“Everyone struggled,” said Brian Athearn, president of Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, adding that wells “were at rock bottom.”

On August 15, United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vislack designated nine counties in Massachusetts, including Dukes, as “primary natural disaster areas” and three other counties as “contiguous disaster areas” due to the drought. Farmers in areas with either designation may be eligible to receive assistance from the Farm Service Agency, such as emergency loans. Farmers in these counties have eight months after designations have been made for ask for help.

The statement lists recommendations for communities facing significant levels of drought to follow.

Residents and businesses are recommended to:

  • Minimize overall water consumption.
  • Limit outdoor watering to hand nozzles or watering cans, use only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m.
  • Follow local water use restrictions, if more stringent.

Immediate actions recommended for communities include:

  • Adopt and implement restrictions on non-essential outdoor water use in the event of drought; The Tier 2 restriction calls for limiting outdoor watering to hand hoses or watering cans, only to be used after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m. If local restrictions are stricter, continue to keep them in place during the drought.
  • Limit or prohibit the installation of new grass, seeding and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours of measurable rainfall; washing hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); washing personal vehicles or boats; filling swimming pools.
  • Establish water consumption reduction targets for all water users and identify major water users and conduct targeted outreach activities to help reduce their use.

Recommended short to medium term steps for communities include:

  • Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication.
  • Provide timely information to residents and local businesses.
  • Implement or establish a drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.
  • Check emergency interconnections for water supply.
  • Develop or refine your local drought management plan using the guidelines outlined in the state drought management plan.

The statement said state agencies will continue to monitor and assess the situation, as well as other related issues, and update the public. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection “will continue to provide technical assistance to communities on systems management, including emergency connections and water supply assistance.”

The Commonwealth Drought Management Task Force will meet again on Wednesday 27 September at 1pm.

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