Klamath County Ranch Land Drying Up

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Wed, August 21 2013 at 4:29 PM, Updated: Wed, August 21 2013 at 4:37 PM

Ranchers above Upper Klamath Lake are coping with a dry summer, and a shut-off of irrigation water...

Eric Duarte is one of about 200 off-project irrigators who had their irrigation water shut off this spring...along with a shut-off of income.

"It looks like we're going to be working for free this year."

Exercising their senior water rights, the Klamath Tribes made a 'call' for the shut-off in early June...claiming they needed it to protect fish downstream.

Without water to grow crops to feed his cattle, Duarte is having to sell that cattle early...

"So we're short cattle by about 650 head right now.  Tomorrow, we're shipping the final 350 out of here."

Duarte adds that selling that cattle early comes at a high price...

"We've lost over 60 thousand dollars.  I mean, that's a pretty big chunk."

And that's money that won't be going back into the local economy. 

Duarte uses an artesian well for his family's drinking water...but some wells in the area have run dry, and many ranchers have no water at all...

"They get all their water off the river, and they're dry."

Duarte faces an uncertain future, and no guarantees there will be water next year...

"We're going to have to make plans like we're not going to have any irrigation water next year, so we might have to cut the cows down 30, 40 percent."

Duarte notes that even though his income is down, his mortgage is still due, and bills are still coming in.

You may remember Eric Duarte from a story we did back in June, just after the water had been shut off.

Duarte was one of the main organizers of an agricultural rally that rolled through Klamath Falls on July first.

What do you think? Sound off on our Facebook page and on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

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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