STANFIELD - The Stanfield Irrigation District isn't waiting for Gov. Ted Kulongoski to declare a drought in Umatilla County. It already has filed an application to draw water from the Columbia River in case he does.

If the district's application is approved, it may be the first ever, according to district manager Ray Kopacz. He filed the application Tuesday with the Oregon Water Resources Department.

"We're trying to get a jump ahead," Kopacz said, adding that the district has applied to take 20 cubic feet per second - 13 million gallons per day - from the Columbia until Sept. 15.

"I'd like to have it at least to June 15," Kopacz said, noting that the district normally is able to use water from the Umatilla River at this time, but the river isn't high enough at the district's diversion near Echo.

"It's just a temporary water transfer. Everything is in place for us to do it," he said, referring to facilities.

Dwight French, manager of the agency's water rights section in Salem, said if the governor declares a drought in the county, the irrigation district's application would be expedited.

"We are able to turn around most applications for drought within a two-week period," French said. "There are special drought application rules."

In the 11 years he's been manager of the state's water rights section, French said he's seen no drought-related applications for Columbia River water.

"It does present some new issues for us," he said.

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