Cars Going Into Upper Klamath Lake

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Mon, July 22 2013 at 4:44 PM, Updated: Mon, July 22 2013 at 4:56 PM

Cars keep going into Upper Klamath Lake along a tricky section of Highway 140...but fixing the problem could be even trickier.

This two mile section of Highway 140 at the base of Doak Mountain threads between a hillside, and Upper Klamath Lake...and cars go into the lake regularly.

One accident happened in August of 2012, while another car went into the lake just three months later.

The most recent incident happened on Saturday afternoon, when Jennifer Smith lost control of her Dodge Neon, and it went into Upper Klamath Lake.  Her 24 year old brother Chris Marchman was able to rescue her 10 month old baby from a carseat in the back - nobody was seriously injured in that crash.

Lieutenant Jason Westfall of the Oregon State Police says he's well acquainted with the area...

"I wouldn't consider it a problem area, but it's an area that definitely has potential, just due to the nature of the traffic that travels through there, and how narrow the road is."

Butch Hansen of the Oregon Department of Transportation says that in order to put in guardrail, the road would first need to be widened...

"And then if I did put a guardrail in there, I'd be re-directing traffic back into the head-on traffic - which could be a risk."

Hansen says it will cost about 15 million dollars for the safety improvements, and the related environmental assessment...

"Because I've got eagles to one side of me, and I've got fish to the other.  And I have to protect both to thread that highway through there."

For now, police say slowing down, and paying extra attention is the safest way to avoid a spill into the lake.

High speed, distracted driving, and swerving to avoid animals are the most common causes of accidents along Upper Klamath Lake.

What do you think? Sound off on our Facebook page and on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Lyle Ahrens

KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's.  He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.

Lyle's job history is quite colorful.  He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand.  A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer.  In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.

Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience.  "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain.  Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".

When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.

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