Klamath Falls water wells targeted for shutoff

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Wed, June 18 2014 at 4:00 PM, Updated: Wed, June 18 2014 at 4:15 PM

Continued drought, and water 'calls' could result in shut-downs of several water wells in Klamath Falls.

The requests to shut off 2 city wells, and 10 private wells were triggered by 'calls' from irrigation districts serving the Klamath Project.

"Under Oregon law, we regulate by priority date."  Explains Kyle Gorman of the Oregon Water Resources Department.  "And the Project has a senior water right that wasn't being satisfied."

The Klamath Falls City Council met Tuesday to study the potential crisis.

All options are on the table, including legal action.

Much of the controversy has focused on the Wocus well, which supplies water to Oregon Tech and Sky Lakes Medical Center...a shut-off notice has also been sent to Jeld-Wen.

Bill Adams of the Klamath Falls City Council is concerned about the financial ripple...

"What does that do to our economic picture here as far as employment for some of our largest employers in the community?"

The city can continue to use the Wocus well for now, if they keep pumping less than 450 thousand gallons a day.

But the problem isn't likely to go away.

Councilman Adams notes that the city is asking for help...

"Basically, we decided to hire a water rights attorney, and probably a hydro-geologist."

Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association claims a solution may already be on the horizon...

"If the settlement agreement was in place today, we would not be making a call, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

But for now, the city is likely to make it's own 'call' - for voluntary water conservation...hoping small efforts now could make a big difference later.

The Klamath Tribes point out that their water call doesn't impact the city water wells.

The Tribes have made their call on water users along rivers supplying Upper Klamath Lake.

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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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