Governor declares drought disaster for Marshall, Tama counties

The rain the past couple days was welcome, albeit cold, in Marshall and Tama counties. However, the moisture did not stop Gov. Kim Reynolds from declaring disaster declarations for 43 counties on Monday, in response to the ongoing drought. Of those, 24 are “primary” and 19 are “contiguous.”

Marshall County is listed as “contiguous,” and Tama is “primary.”

Marshall County Emergency Management Coordinator Kim Elder said there is no difference between the “contiguous” and “primary” counties.

“This is due to the fact that the county lines mean nothing to a drought or natural disaster, so there can be over bleed for the disaster into another county,” she said.

The governor’s designation makes eligible farmers in both Marshall and Tama eligible for Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loan assistance. Farmers have eight months to apply for the loan. The FSA will evaluate how much production a farmer has lost due to the drought, as well as the repayment ability.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, roughly one-third of Marshall is in a severe drought. The rest of the county is in a moderate drought. It is an improvement from two weeks ago when Marshall was considered severe and the northeast corner was in an extreme drought.

However, half of Tama County is in an extreme drought, and the rest is severe. Two weeks ago, three-fourths of the county was extreme. Most of Tama County has been in severe drought throughout 2024.

Tama County Emergency Management Coordinator Ryan Goodenbour said the county has actually been in a drought for at least one year.Due to the length and intensity of the drought, he said they have placed water restrictions on fire departments — but not in emergency situations.

“If there’s an actual fire, they can do what they need to do,” Goodenbour said. “Just no excessive training with burning of structures or CRP land.”

Tama County is also under water restrictions from Poweshiek Water. On March 13, the company implemented a mandatory water conservation order. Residents are asked to:

Use private wells for livestock, agriculture needs and home life;

Only water flower and vegetable gardens, trees and shrubs that are younger than four years old and only between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.;

Not wash cars, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks or building exteriors;

Not fill pools or ponds and;

Not serve water in restaurants, unless requested by the customer.

The order states water sources have continued to weaken as they have looked for new ones close to the Tama Treatment and Amana Treatment Plant areas.

Three sources were found near Tama, and new wells are scheduled to be operational by June 1. The order also states water in the Amana area remains elusive.

So far, Marshall County has not taken any steps to address the drought for crop loss or damages.

Goodenbour said that while the rain during the last two days has been good, it is not enough.

“I talked to the National Weather Service,” he said. “We need 12 to 14 inches. “The rain will help a little bit, but it’s not enough to get us out of the drought. Hopefully there is more rain coming.”