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USDA official to visit Indiana farms amid drought

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A federal farm official will visit three Indiana farms this week amid a statewide drought that left Indianapolis poised to tie its driest 45-day stretch on record.

Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Undersecretary Michael Scuse will travel to Indiana on Wednesday and Thursday to tour drought-stricken farm fields in Allen and White counties in northern Indiana and Johnson County south of Indianapolis, Executive Director Julia Wickard of the Indiana Farm Service Agency said Monday.

The National Weather Service has recorded 0.09 of an inch in rainfall that in Indianapolis since June 1. If the forecast for no rain on Monday held up, that total would match a stretch in August and September 1908 as the city's driest since weather service record keeping began in the 1870s.

Other parts of the state aren't faring much better: Fort Wayne has recorded just 0.70 of an inch of rain since June 1.

Receding water levels at Morse Reservoir about 20 miles north of Indianapolis contributed to a boat running aground and causing about $5,000 damage to the craft, Indiana Conservation Officer Rick Garringer said.

The accident occurred Sunday when a 19-foot ski boat operated by Jeff Clinton of Noblesville ran aground in what is normally 8 feet of water, he said.

"As the water level of the reservoir lowers new hazards appear near the surface throughout the lake," Garringer said.

Citizens Water, which operates the reservoir, said it's about 6 feet below its full level. The utility serving Indianapolis and some of its suburbs says it has reduced its water releases from Morse, Geist and Eagle Creek reservoirs but some release must continue to maintain stream flow.

The water utility for Indianapolis and some of its suburbs utility has seen about a 20 percent drop in water use since a lawn watering ban went into effect Friday. Daily water use fell about 40 million gallons per day from about 200 million gallons before water use restrictions were put in place, the utility said.

The utility began calling for conservation after customers used a record 233 million gallons on June 26.

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