Dike plan must wait
By LAURA McVICKER, Herald and News, August 14, 2006
A comprehensive plan for Klamath County dikes will
have to wait in line behind other emergency
preparedness efforts, local officials say.
Emergency exercises dealing with weapons of mass
destruction and a hypothetical Gerber Dam failure
are planned in the next few months, sidelining a
project aimed at assembling a database of levees and
dikes in the county, said Klamath County emergency
manager Bill Thompson.
Following a June 15 meeting, emergency officials
along with U.S. Corps of Engineers and Bureau of
Reclamation officials formed a dike task force and
planned to create a comprehensive database of dikes.
Gerber dam exercise
But in November, attention will turn to a Gerber
Dam-failure exercise, involving the Bureau of
Reclamation and the sheriff's office in addition to
emergency services. The exercise will address how to
handle a dam failure, which Thompson deems a greater
risk than another dike break.
“Levees are important, but we have bigger ones right
under our windshield,” Thompson said.
In September, local law enforcement officials will
join emergency services for a federally mandated
exercise dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
Dike task force
The intent of the June 15 meeting and the task force
was to find and inspect levees and dikes, Thompson
said. From there, the group plans to make
recommendations to owners and others responsible for
They haven't set their next meeting yet, nor have
the Corps of Engineers been in Klamath County since
leaving June 16. But a Corps spokeswoman said
officials are assessing who is eligible for the
Corps' inspection program.
Dike owners who are included in special taxing
districts or associations organized for dike
maintenance can qualify for the inspections. No dike
owners or others responsible for dike maintenance
requested federal inspection before the June 15
meeting. So far, members of the Lakeshore Garden
Drainage Association - residents who are in charge
of a levee on Lakeshore Drive - have been the only
owners who have requested federal inspection.
Ironically, the June 15 meeting - set back in March
- came a week after waters poured through a 200-foot
gap in the broken dike, flooding 2,000 acres of
farmland and closing a portion of Highway 140 for
days. It also caused millions of dollars in damage.
Questions then emerged as to who is in charge of
inspecting dikes. County commissioners have said
they don't have jurisdiction over the maintenance of
Emergency services are in charge of disaster
preparedness, but aren't managers of dikes.
The sheriff's office only steps in where there's a
public safety risk.
Records of owners of land adjacent to and dependent
on dikes are available from the Bureau of
Reclamation, yet officials say there are no records
of who is responsible for maintenance.