SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to make an official drought declaration on Friday.

The governor’s declaration comes after federal officials designated portions of 11 drought-ridden western and central states—including California—as primary natural disaster areas, highlighting the financial strain the lack of rain is likely to bring to farmers in those regions.

That announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday included counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and California.

The last declaration from Gov. Jerry Brown came on Feb. 27, 2009, amid a three-year dry stretch.

The declaration is expected to make some emergency exemptions, but be mostly be a step toward finding further assistance.

Throughout Northern California a red-flag warning has been in effect amid dry conditions after the driest year on record.

Cal Fire has started the hiring process for more than 100 extra firefighters to prepare for what appears to be an early start to the fire season.

“In just the last two weeks, we have responded to over 150 wildfires that have burned over 600 acres,” said Daniel Berlant with Cal Fire. “In a normal year, that would be much lower, somewhere around 25 fires on average, 40 acres.”

A demonstration behind the Cal Fire station in Auburn showed how quickly flames can spread—in a matter of minutes, the fire doubled in size.

“As we move further into the actual summer months, things are only going to get drier, the temperature is only going to get higher, the humidity is only going to get lower,” Berlant said.

Cal Fire does have a roughly $20 million reserve, but if the dry weather pattern continues, it is likely they will need more money from the state.

Meanwhile at the state capitol, protesters blaming California policies for the current drought gathered for a water rally on Thursday.

More than 1,000 people flooded the west steps, hoping to get the ear of the governor about dealing with current and future drought conditions.

A caravan of buses brought farmers and residents from the San Joaquin Valley wanted Brown to ask the federal government for help.

“We need this governor to move immediately on setting a state emergency drought disaster executive order immediately,” said Manuel Cunha with the Nisei Farmers League.

Being prepared is key. They say having a lack of water storage facilities is threatening our agricultural industries. The believe the problem will eventually trickle down to neighborhood grocery stores with higher-cost imported produce.

The coalition supports an $11 billion water bond to improve the state’s water storage infrastructure.

“If we had storage today we would have been able to capture all that water during the wet years and use it this year,” said Assemblyman Henry Perea.

Assemblyman Dan Logue opposes the package, because he believes only 25 percent of the money will actually be allocated to water storage.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.


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