Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Thu, December 13 2012 at 4:58 PM, Updated: Thu, December 13 2012 at 5:10 PM
The next 18 days could be critical for the future of air quality regulations in Klamath County...and stagnant air could also stagnate the economy.
Klamath County Public Health Director Marilynn Sutherland says the county has already been out of compliance with air quality standards one day this year...
"So if we slip out of compliance more than one day the rest of this calendar year, we will be out of attainment for the entire three year period."
Sutherland credits cooperation from wood stove users in helping to meet tighter air quality standards.
Not meeting those standards could result in even tighter burning regulations, a loss of federal transportation dollars, and discourage new business...
"If we depress commercial and industrial development, capital input into our local economy, we depress our economy." Notes Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum. "This would be terrible for the citizens of Klamath County."
Klamath County could gain one more 'compliance' year if an accidental hay barn fire from 2011 is not included into that year's statistics.
Commissioner Linthicum has requested a state environmental commission to consider that exclusion...
"They said they would write a letter of support, they would send it to the E.P.A., and D.E.Q."
But for now, Marilynn Sutherland knows there's a lot riding on the next several days...
"We have two issues - the public health issue, particulate matter is bad for people, and the second issue, which is this is a critical economic issue for Klamath County."
Klamath County still holds the U.S. record for poor air quality in a single day due to wood stove smoke.
That day in 1988 triggered the adoption of an Environmental Protection Agency air quality attainment plan three years later.
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.