Irrigation Water Shutoffs Underway in Klamath County

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Fri, June 28 2013 at 3:21 PM, Updated: Fri, June 28 2013 at 3:33 PM

Irrigation water has now been shut off to about 80 farms and ranches in Klamath County.

Eric Duarte's access to water from the Sprague River was shut off a week ago...

"They just said that we were shut off because there was a senior water right call, which would be the Tribe, which would be a 'time immemorial' right."

Duarte's water rights go back to 1864...but a recent state ruling gives the Klamath Tribe's rights priority.

"Nobody's saying that the Tribe doesn't have a water right on the river."  Notes Duarte.  "It's just that right now, it's just a quantification of the water that they've been awarded that's hard for everybody to make a living."

The Duarte family gets their drinking water from an artesian spring...but that's not enough water for his cattle.

Duarte says he's already having to sell some of his livestock...

"At the moment, I shipped two loads of yearlings yesterday.  We're going to try to lighten it up a little bit as we can go."

Nikki Duarte is organizing an agricultural awareness rally that will take place Monday...

"It's all about agriculture, and agriculture will affect everyone.  It's going to affect grocery stores, it's going to affect the city people, it's going to affect everyone."

The rally and convoy will begin Monday morning at nine at the Klamath County Fairgrounds, and will conclude at the bucket in front of the Klamath County Government Center.

Duarte is still optimistic that a water solution can be reached that will include 'off project' irrigators...

"There's plenty of water in this basin for everybody.  We just have to sit down, try to get around the table of some sort, and negotiate a deal."

'If' those ranchers can get through this summer.

The shutoffs of irrigation water are continuing on the Sprague, Williamson, and Wood Rivers above Upper Klamath Lake.

Water could be shut off to about 180 square miles of farm and ranch land.

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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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