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Highway closed indefinitely

H&N photos by Andrew Mariman
Efforts to shore up Highway 140 on Upper Klamath Lake continued Thursday. The highway is closed from the junction of highways 140 and 66 to Rocky Point.

June 9, 2006 by LAURA McVICKER, H&N

A 15-mile portion of Highway 140 west of Klamath Falls will be closed indefinitely after flood waters from Upper Klamath Lake continued to undermine the roadway.

But authorities say water at the dike stopped rising Thursday, and there was no immediate threat to homes and livestock.

Crews are focusing on repairing the highway, a main thoroughfare from Medford to Klamath Falls, said Mike Stinson, district manager for the state's Department of Transportation. Technical engineers were called in Thursday. The highway is closed from the junction of highways 140 and 66 to Rocky Point.

A dike built in the early 1920s cracked and failed Wednesday afternoon, releasing water that flooded 2,000 acres of farmland that separates Upper Klamath Lake from Highway 140 west of the Running Y Resort. Pacific Power maintains the dike.

The highway was closed Wednesday night, and on Thursday, water continued to pass through the asphalt and underneath the roadway, softening shoulders of the highway, Stinson said. Dump trucks from Pacific Power were used to bring dirt and rock to form a makeshift 100-foot-long dike along the highway.

Motorists can expect 45-minute delays, Stinson said. Those heading to Medford will be detoured at the junction of highways 140 and 66, and motorists traveling east on Highway 140 will be detoured to West Side Road, just west of Rocky Point.

A 100-foot breach

Pacific Power workers noticed cracks in the dike at about 2 p.m. Wednesday, and 30 minutes later a 100-foot section had sunk two feet.

An hour later water began gushing into the adjacent farmland, known as the Caledonia Marsh, and continued to pour in throughout the evening.

The result was a 4-foot deep reservoir stretching 2,000 acres.

On Thursday, marshland on the other side of the highway continued to crest as water slowly poured over, under and through the roadway. Officials feared flood waters could overtake a 3,000-head cattle ranch owned by the Running Y Resort that is south of Highway 140 near the Geary Canal Bridge. But concerns lessened as water began receding Thursday.

Several pieces of farming equipment, including a fuel trailer, were submerged, but authorities were able to pull the trailer from the water, said Dave Kvamme, a spokesman for Pacific Power. Divers checked for fuel cans under water, and all were sealed.

The Caledonia Marsh is privately owned by several people, Kvamme said, but he couldn't name them.

Sheriff deputies, Klamath Falls police officers and state troopers as well as ODOT and Pacific Power officials were on the scene.

Law enforcement left Thursday afternoon.

Authorities were unable to determine the reason for the dike failure, but speculate higher lake levels may have contributed to the breach.

“The lake was very full and that very well could have been a factor,” Kvamme said.

Reinforcing access road

On Thursday afternoon, the water level near the broken dike was several inches below what it had been 24 hours before, officials said. Dump trucks hauled in dirt and rock to reinforce the access road that leads to the breach, but no one could say when the dike would be repaired.

Drainage of the farmland is an option, but Kvamme said Pacific Power officials don't yet have details on how or when that could happen.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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