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Dike fails near Geary Canal Bridge
Parts of Highway 140 closed

H&N photo by John Stoops
Water gushes out onto the former marshland now used for farming, after about 300 feet of dike near the Gary Canal Bridge burst open.

June 8, 2006, Herald and News by Laura McVIicker and Ty Beaver

Authorities 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 G
eary 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.


H&N photo by John Stoops Flood waters from Upper Klamath Lake flow over a dike near the Geary Canal Bridge Wednesday afternoon.


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 local traffic.

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.

By 2:30 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.

“There's a 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.

Kvamme said 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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