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Crater Lake water crisis. Crater Lake faces significant cutbacks. Yearly budget trimmed by $150,000. Water quality worries
  by LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 11/20/13

Water crisis

   Crater Lake National Park managers are working with the state of Oregon to determine if water from a well drilled last summer can be used to meet the park’s water needs.

   During the visitation heavy summer months, Supt. Craig Ackerman said the park needs up to 60,000 gallons of water a day. All water presently comes from Annie Creek.

   Because the park has a low priority among water users — it ranks 28th — calls for water last summer by the Klamath Tribes, which have priority water rights, created concerns the park might have to close. Ackerman said trucking water to the park was not feasible because it would have cost $900,000 a month.

   “The furor was great over the potential of closing the park,” he said, noting the park has more than a half-million visitors annually, and is important economically for neighboring cities, including Klamath Falls, Chiloquin, Chemult and others in and near Roseburg and Medford.

   A possible scenario   also called for closing park restrooms.

   “We’re trying not to have porta-johns spread out across the park,” Ackerman said.

   The state water resources board, however, authorized water for human consumption as part of a decision that also provided water for livestock by regional ranchers.

   The park, in cooperation with Xanterra, implemented programs to reduce water use, including retrofitting all water fixtures with low-flow devices.  

   Because projections call for possible low water years, Ackerman said National Park Service hydrologists used geological studies to determine possible sites for a new well — one that will not affect lake water levels. Based on results at a 505-foot deep test well near the Highway 62 junction with the Union Peak-Pacific Crest Trail, if developed, the well can provide four times more water than the park needs during peak use periods.

   Ackerman said talks about permitting the well are ongoing with state officials.  

     CRATER LAKE — Ongoing impacts from federal sequestration, automatic spending cuts that took effect earlier this year and are expected to   continue in 2014, may mean cutbacks in programs at Crater Lake National Park.

   Supt. Craig Ackerman said the ongoing automatic cuts created by sequestration and an expected 1 percent federal pay raise will impact the   park’s budget by $100,000 to $150,000 in 2014, or 2 to 3 percent of the park’s current operating budget of $5 million. Combined with previous cuts, the new cuts would mean the park’s budget has been reduced more than $500,000 since 2012.

   This year’s sequestration cuts were handled by not filling   some vacant positions that resulted from transfers or retirements. He said the next round will likely result in the continued closure of the Lost Creek Campground, eliminating most seasonal positions and halting non-essential snowplowing, which means the East Rim Drive would be required to melt on its own.  

   “You are likely to see a significantly reduced presence at the park,” Ackerman said.

   Future budget reductions at Crater Lake, Oregon’s only national park, could result in cuts to permanent staff that might result in combining various jobs.
    1,200 school youth were turned away because of gov. shutdown

   Ackerman said it’s unknown if the ongoing impasse over the federal budget will result in another federal government shutdown in January. He said last summer’s 16-day shutdown resulted in the loss of an estimated $15,000 to $25,000 in park entrance fees, and also impacted income to Xanterra, the park concessionaire that operates the Crater Lake Lodge and other park facilities, and the Crater Lake Trolley. Xanterra officials estimated the shutdown cost the company more than $300,000.  

   Ironically, the lost fees and visitation came during a year that, based on early figures, was among the busiest. Receipts from park entrance fees and Crater Lake Natural History Association outlets were higher than in previous years.

   “I’ve never seen it so busy,” Marsha McCabe, the park’s chief of interpretation, said of last summer’s visitation.

   McCabe said the parking area by the administration building was opened to handle overflow parking in the Munson Valley area. At times, Rim Village was closed because their parking areas were completely filled.  

   She also lamented an impact of the federal shutdown, noting more than 1,200 school youth who had planned visits through the school-in-the-parks program were turned away — “That was one of the saddest parts of the closure.” Efforts were made to fill openings when the park reopened, but not always successfully.


   Water quality worries

   Concerns about invasive species possibly impacting Crater Lake’s water quality are causing park officials to look at permanently banning scuba diving and other lake activities.

   “I don’t think anybody wants to see the water quality go down or to see the water anything but blue,” Crater Lake National Park Supt. Craig Ackerman said of ongoing concerns about the lake quality. Based on various studies, Crater Lake has the best quality of any lake in the United States.

   The videos of people scuba diving and swimming across the lake went viral, resulting in a flurry of requests for similar outings. Unless the park can perform tests to ensure tanks, fins and other gear have no invasive species — something he said the park cannot afford to do — it’s possible an invasive species could enter the lake.  

   While some critics discount whether various invasive species could survive the lake’s bitterly cold winters, Ackerman noted people a century ago also questioned whether fish planted in the lake by William Steel, the “Father of Crater Lake,” could reproduce.

   “Look what happened,” he said of the lake’s still prolific fish populations.
  H&N file photo

   A waterfall along one of the many trails at Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake is protected and therefore its waters are not used for park operations. Instead, the park draws 69,000 gallons of water daily from streams. That water is in jeopardy of being cut off.



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