Off-project water users suggest solutions to Klamath water problems

Klamath Falls, Ore. – An advisor to the Secretary of the Interior meets with off-project water users in Klamath Falls.

Alan Mikkelsen serves as a senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Mikkelsen reminded Klamath off-project irrigators Monday night that he’s a veteran of water wars.

“I organized a tractor brigade in western Montana,” Mikkelsen said. “Because we were being hit with in-stream flow requirements that were imposed by a lawsuit brought by the local tribes.”

Former Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams recalled the Klamath Basin water shutoff of 2001.

“Issues were raised about fish, and water supplies, and Tribal rights,” Mallams explained. “Fish were dubiously listed without due process to the E.S.A., and driven to a point that water management was affected, and steps were taken to create a huge problem for agriculture.”

Solutions suggested by off-project irrigators to water issues include removal of juniper trees, privatization of the Klamath Project, and creation of a public utility district.

To boost sucker fish populations, the plan suggests targeting minnows that prey on sucker larvae and reducing lake levels.

Mikkelsen reminded the group that he’s not an advocate for Tribes or irrigators. “I’m here to be an advocate for consensus because of the experience that I have had.”

Mikkelsen has made six previous trips to the Klamath Basin to meet with stakeholders on the water issue.

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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