Drought Hits Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Wed, June 12 2013 at 2:59 PM, Updated: Wed, June 12 2013 at 3:06 PM

A scenic and sensitive area straddling the Oregon /California state line is now going dry.

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Manager Ron Cole says a dry area of the marsh is normally under two to three feet of water...

"This is really only the second time in about the last 70 years that the refuge will be completely dry by summertime."

There are still a few pockets of wetland areas, but Cole notes those are drying out quickly...

"It's over 50,000 acres of land.  Of that, about 31,000 acres are managed wetlands.  And right now, we're looking at maybe 300 acres of wetlands left."

It's estimated that over a million birds pass through the refuge in the fall.

Cole says the birds have less and less room as the water dries up...and having too many birds in too small of an area can result in unhealthy conditions...

"Concentrating the birds in smaller areas creates an environment where the diseases can be passed from bird to bird much more quickly."

Cole believes the refuge reflects the general health of the Klamath Basin...

"There's certainly a link to the economy of the Basin, and how well and how healthy the refuges are."

Cole says he's already seeing a reduction in the number of visitors to the refuge.

It's estimated that 80% of the entire Pacific flyway comes through the Klamath Basin. 

About half of those birds spend at least some time on the refuge.

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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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