Klamath Basin water shut-offs

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Tue, June 10 2014 at 4:05 PM, Updated: Wed, June 11 2014 at 3:37 PM

Klamath Falls, Ore. - About 200 ranchers in the Klamath Basin have received letters telling them to shut off their irrigation water...and that number could soon grow.

Rancher Richard Spink got his letter from the Watermaster Friday...

"Informing us that as of immediately, they want us to put our boards in our irrigation, and stop the water flow."

Spink's water rights go back to 1912.

But Watermaster Scott White says the water 'calls' have been made by users with rights dating back to 1905...

"In times of shortage, the most senior water user will be the last to get shut off."

The Klamath Tribes are expected to make their water call this week...they have water rights dating back to 'time immemorial'.

Watermaster White notes that the Tribe's call last year led to even more shutoffs...

"It was over 300 that actually ended up getting notices to shut off."

Spink says he's allowed enough water so his cattle can drink.

But if Spink can't water his pasture, he'll have to sell his cattle early...

"Cows won't get as fat.  There's going to be some short sales."

White's task is to enforce the water shutoffs...

"It's certainly not the most enjoyable thing we have to do as watermasters, but it is a part of our job."

And without water, Spink will have a hard time making a living...

"I'm only 57 - I'd hate to retire this early."

Klamath Tribal Chairman Don Gentry says that he's sent a letter initiating a water call on behalf of the Klamath Tribes to the Oregon Water Resources Department.


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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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