Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Tue, January 15 2013 at 5:09 PM, Updated: Tue, January 15 2013 at 5:21 PM
Only two weeks into the year, Klamath Falls is in danger of failing to meet federal air quality standards for 2013...and that could have possible financial impacts.
Klamath Falls was out of compliance on Sunday.
"DEQ samples our air quality every three days." Explains Klamath County Public Health Director Marilynn Sutherland. "If we are not in attainment on three of those days for a total year, we are out of compliance with the federal standards, and then consequences start to roll out."
Those consequences are likely to extend beyond more 'red' burning days and wood stove restrictions.
Failure to comply with the tighter air quality standards could also jeopardize some federal funding, and also limit businesses coming to Klamath Falls.
Sutherland notes that the specific consequences wouldn't be known until next year...
"At this point, we are predicting limitations on federal funding related to any project that could contribute to pollution in the basin."
And that could limit new industry, or expansion of existing industry.
For now, air quality is still 'unhealthy'...and many are struggling to keep warm in single-digit temperatures.
Marilynn Sutherland notes the county is taking a close look at that factor...
"The board of County Commissioners are currently asking us to explore the possibility that we can be considered for an 'exceptional event' for this once in 25 years cold snap."
Health officials say the readings over the next 24 hours will be crucial...and they're asking everyone with wood stoves to avoid burning if at all possible.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality claims that wood stoves account for about 74 percent of the air quality problems in the Klamath Basin.
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.