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Levee patch sought in Klamath Falls

H&N photo by Todd E. Swenson
Tim Thompson, an engineer from W&H Pacific, evaluates the larger of the two levee leaks on Upper Klamath Lake Friday.
County funds to help with levee leaks
By Megan Doyle, Herald and News May 30, 2008


Lakeshore Drive resident Bill Cox woke up multiple times Thursday night to shine a flashlight toward a leaking levee that keeps Upper Klamath Lake from flooding his property. He was worried about neighbors and his cattle, which are difficult to move quickly.

After notifying residents Thursday, Klamath County officials on Friday scrambled to make sure the levee just west of Moore Park doesn’t fail and flood nearly a dozen homes along Lakeshore Drive.

County commissioners agreed to provide $20,000 to help the Lakeshore Gardens Drainage District, which owns the levee, fix two 4-inch diameter holes in the earthen dike.

A levee failure at the location could cost $1.8 million.

The failure of the Geary dike near Running Y Ranch and Resort in June 2006 flooded acres of farmland, closed Highway 140 for days and caused millions of dollars of damage.

County authorities on Friday also contacted U.S. Rep. Greg Walden to help rally support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the levee fails.

Corps offers support

Corps of Engineers officials indicated late Friday afternoon that representatives would be in Klamath Falls by Monday to provide technical support, said Klamath County Emergency Services Manager Bill Thompson.

The Corps of Engineers offers a dike inspection program, but since the levee in the Lakeshore Garden Drainage District was not designed nor engineered specifically for flood control, it wasn’t eligible, Thompson said.

“We’re trying to make a case,” he said. “There will be a flood if this dike fails.”

The first leak in the levee appeared May 24. By Thursday afternoon, a second leak developed. Both were producing clear water, a sign that erosion that could cause a levee failure wasn’t happening.

County funding

The county’s $20,000 will be used to identify what needs to be done to fix the leaks. A local resident also offered $500 for cement bags to fill the leaking gaps, Thompson said.

The Lakeshore Gardens Drainage District may need to request additional money for materials to patch the dike. It has owned the levee, built by the Corps of Engineers, since 1927. The district only has about $2,000 in its coffers, not enough for the equipment and materials necessary.

Spencer Higginson, a National Weather Service hydrologist based in Medford, visited the levee Friday.

“Hopefully it’s just found a small void it’s going through,” he said. But if the situation worsens, the National Weather Service will issue flood watch warnings.

The current lake surface level, according to information from the Bureau of Land Management, is 4,142.70 feet above sea level. Estimates from county officials indicate it is 1.08 feet below flood stage.

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