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MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
AMONG THE
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, AND
THE WESTERN GOVERNORS' ASSOCIATION
REGARDING FUTURE MANAGEMENT OF DROUGHT IN THE WEST

I. Purpose

The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to establish a more comprehensive, integrated response to drought emergencies in the West. Because of the interstate nature of drought and its impacts, and because various drought assistance programs occur at both state and federal levels of government, we believe it is important to cooperatively plan for and implement measures that will provide relief from the current drought and that will prepare for future drought emergencies.

II. Objective

To encourage cooperation among the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA), U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Western Governors' Association (WGA) to improve the planning, communication, data and response with regard to the management of the current and future droughts. It is the intent of this MOU to be inclusive, and other federal agencies having interest and responsibilities in drought or activities relating to or responding to drought are invited to participate, either through an addendum to this original MOU or by participating in the council established by the signatories.

III. Background

Even though there have been frequent, significant droughts of regional and national consequences over the years, federal programs have, and continue to treat droughts as unique, separate events, addressed mainly through special legislation and ad hoc action. For other natural disasters, the federal government has a systematic and permanent process for response in place. Several federal agencies have a role in drought -- from predicting, forecasting and monitoring of drought conditions, to the provision of planning and technical assistance, and financial aid and resource assistance. With drought disasters, there has never been a single federal agency that has been designated to be "in charge" of coordinating drought response. This lack of coordination represents a significant deficiency in the current federal response and planning processes associated with drought management.

In addition, there is no forum at the national level for issue identification and resolution. Consequently, states have had to deal with individual programs in the various agencies separately, rather than having a single point-of-contact. Modernization, downsizing, budget restrictions, and changing programs and authorities at all levels of government have further compounded the current issues and made the process extremely frustrating for the states, as well as for the citizens and businesses affected by the drought. From the federal perspective, decreasing budgets necessitate the states maximize efficiency through better planning for drought and more focused response. In some cases, state and local government drought planning has been inadequate, leading to breakdown in communication and in mitigation.

The signatories seek a regionally-integrated, cooperative approach to the future management of drought. The proposed approach for this MOU will bring together the signatories, or their designated representatives, to provide the leadership to improve communications, address policy questions, ensure data needs are addressed, improve overall management and provide improved customer service in the future.

The signatories are committed to addressing the priority issues surrounding drought management and to providing improved response in the future.

IV. Authorities

Nothing in this MOU alters the responsibilities or statutory authorities of DOA, DOI, FEMA, SBA, WGA or individual States and insular areas. This MOU does not supersede existing agreements among any of the signatories.

V. Responsibilities

Recognizing that the federal signatories maintain a national mandate and that there will be no deleterious effects on service in any other part of the nation, the signatories agree to establish a western drought coordination council which shall meet annually (or as needed during droughts) to work on resolution of drought related issues, exchange information on lessons learned, and pursue long-term drought mitigation activities. During periods of drought, the council shall monitor drought conditions and state responses, identify impacts and issues for resolution, facilitate interstate activities, and work in partnership to address needs brought on by the drought. We anticipate that successful activities of the western drought coordination council would serve as a model for accomplishment of a similar activity in other areas of the country.

The federal agencies shall establish a federal interagency drought coordinating group to serve as the vehicles for interfacing with the states and region on drought issue identification, resolution, and development of drought policy at the national level. Through this MOU, USDA is recognized in a lead coordinating role for the federal interagency drought coordinating group.

The governors, through their appropriate drought planning and response agencies, will work with other stakeholder groups to insure that future drought planning and mitigation is managed in a more cooperative, coordinated, and proactive fashion.

VI. Authentication

This MOU becomes effective upon its signature by all parties. The MOU will continue in effect for three (3) years or until modified by mutual consent. Participation by any signatory member may be terminated at the request of any signatory within ninety (90) days prior notice.

Signed By:

Daniel R. Glickman, 2-3-97
Secretary of Agriculture

Bruce Babbitt, 1-31-97
Secretary of the Interior

Philip Lader, 2-3-97
Administrator, Small Business Administration

James Lee Witt, 2-4-97
Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Edward T. Schafer, 2-3-97
Governor of North Dakota
Chairman, Western Governors' Association

Roy Romer, 2-2-97
Governor of Colorado
Vice Chair, Western Governors' Association

Gary E. Johnson, 2-3-97
Governor of New Mexico
WGA Lead Governor for Drought Response

Bill Anoatubby
Governor
Chickasaw Nation

Dennis V. Brinker
President
National Association of Counties, Western Interstate Region

George Bush
Governor of Texas

William M. Daley
Secretary, US Department of Commerce

Tracy C. King, President
Fort Belknap Community Council
Harlem, Montana

Raymond Stanley
Chairman, San Carlos Apache Tribe
San Carlos, Arizona

Updated May 7, 1998

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