Klamath Tribes Defend Water Call Decision

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Wed, July 17 2013 at 5:23 PM, Updated: Wed, July 17 2013 at 5:34 PM

Irrigation water has now been shut off to about 200 farmers and ranchers above Upper Klamath Lake...due to a 'call' by the Klamath Tribes.

Klamath Tribal Chairman Don Gentry is at the very center of a water crisis...

"We've been looked at as the problem, and the solution.  Somehow, that these problems are because of the Klamath Tribes, and if the Tribes would just give up water, everything would be fine."

The Tribes issued a 'call' in June for the state to enforce the Tribe's senior water rights...shutting off irrigation water to users upstream.

"It was very hard."  Notes Chairman Gentry.  "We knew that it would even impact Klamath Tribal members, that are in the area that are irrigators, and own property, and have individual water rights."

Gentry maintains the shutoff was justified to help protect endangered species, and other resources.

While low mountain snowpack levels and continued drought conditions were key factors in the decision to shut off water to off-project farmers, Gentry cautions that those restrictions could remain in place during normal water years...

"Well, I think it's pretty obvious - even in non-drought years that the junior water users will be affected into the future.  So, there will be calls made."

A Klamath Falls judge denied a request Tuesday to turn those irrigation flows back on.

Chairman Gentry represents the Klamath Tribes on the Klamath River Basin Task Force, a group that's working to hammer out an agreement that's cheaper, and has broader appeal than the KBRA.

That task force is scheduled to meet next in Klamath Falls on August 1st.


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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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