Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Dike fails near Geary Canal
June 8, 2006, Herald and News by Laura McVIicker and Ty Beaver
toiled through the night and into the morning to
block Upper Klamath Lake flood waters from
crossing Highway 140 west of the Running Y Ranch
Resort Wednesday after a dike cracked and failed.
As of late Wednesday, flood waters were threatening to overtake a portion of Highway 140. Part of the highway was closed and dump trucks were brought in by Pacific Power to form a makeshift 1,000-foot long dike on the roadside consisting of rock and dirt, which was two feet higher than the asphalt, said Randy Bednar, assistant district manager of the state's Department of Transportation in Klamath Falls.
The highway, a main route from Klamath Falls to Lake of the Woods and Medford, was protected from lake waters by the failed dike near the Geary Canal Bridge. If floodwaters cross the highway, only one more dike remains between the flood waters and Running Y Ranch Resort property, authorities said.
As of press time, authorities halted work building the makeshift dike to concentrate on reinforcing the second dike after water softened the highway.
Officials feared a foot of water could overtake the highway after the flood waters from the lake created a four-foot reservoir in 2,000 acres of farmland cradling Upper Klamath Lake.
Officials' immediate goal was protecting the highway. They sealed off a 15-mile strip Wednesday evening, starting at the Highway 140-Highway 66 junction to close the route to Rocky Point. The portion of the highway will open after authorities construct the makeshift dike and get flood waters under control. Dave Kvamme, spokesman for Pacific Power, said officials' next goal would be to repair the original dike after flood waters in the farmland equalize with the lake.
A detour to Highway 97 was set
up for motorists heading to Medford. Motorists
heading into Klamath Falls were sent to Westside
Road. Lakeshore Drive also was closed, except to
Klamath County commissioners have declared a county emergency and Wednesday afternoon asked Gov. Ted Kulongoski for aid.
Pacific Power was working on the levy around 2 p.m. Wednesday when workers noticed cracks in the dike.
p.m., when sheriff's deputies arrived, a 100-foot
section of the dike had sunk 2 feet. An hour
later, the section gave way and water gushed from
the lake into pastures adjacent to Highway 140.
George Buckingham of Klamath County Emergency Services said he could see the dike cracking as he walked along the top.
Once the dike failed, it flooded
two fields and a service road between them,
authorities said. People on the scene could see
the water overtaking the service road and the
fields as water continued to flow.
No homes were on the flooded land and no injuries to livestock or people were reported. The farmland is privately owned, but authorities could not release the name of the owner as of press time.
good side to this,” Buckingham said. “There are no
homes or people.”
By 5:30 p.m., Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, ODOT and Pacific Power officials set up a mobile command unit to monitor the situation.
officials initially were fearful that a second
dike adjacent to the Running Y Resort's golf
course was sinking and flood waters could pour
onto the course. However, as of press time, he
said officials were no longer concerned and had
focused attention on protecting the highway.
Pacific Power officials, Klamath County sheriff's deputies, Klamath Emergency Services officials and state's Department of Transportation employees were on the scene.
No one knew why the dike failed, but Evinger said it was built in the early 1900s and age may have been a factor.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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