State may allow electric motors on Mud Lake
By JAYSON JACOBY
Of the Baker City Herald
Boaters who prefer not to paddle and really hate to row might get a new place to spin their electric motors.
It's called Mud Lake but its major impediment to motorboats at the moment is not mud.
Mud Lake is the tiny neighbor to two bigger and better-known bodies of water in the Elkhorn Mountains about 34 miles northwest of Baker City: Anthony and Grande Ronde lakes.
Right now boaters can't use motors in Mud Lake, which lies a couple of long casts north of Anthony Lake (where electric motors are allowed but gas-powered motors are not) and a half-mile or so south of Grande Ronde (where all boat motors are banned).
Actually right now boaters can't do much of anything at Mud Lake, at least not in a boat, because there's about seven feet of snow there.
But by this summer, when the snow has gone and the lake has re-appeared, boaters might be allowed to use electric motors in Mud Lake for the first time.
The Oregon State Marine Board is proposing to allow electric motors on Mud Lake and on 11 other lakes where a current state administrative rule bans all motors.
"The main goal of this proposal is to offer a few more lakes across the state for use by people who need or prefer electric motors," said Randy Henry, a police and planning analyst for the Marine Board in Salem. "Some of these may not be suitable, but others probably are.
"We'd like to hear from people who support the proposal, and we'd like to hear from people who don't believe the change is appropriate and why they believe that."
Henry said the Marine Board banned boat motors at many of the 12 lakes including Mud Lake in the early 1960s.
The board's main goal then, though, was to prohibit ear-abusing, exhaust-belching gas-powered motors, Henry said.
At the time electric motors were rare, so the Marine Board wrote rules that outlawed all types of boat motors, rather than differentiating between gas and electric models, he said.
About a year ago a disabled boater asked the Marine Board to change the rules to allow people who have a disabled hunter or angler permit from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to use electric motors on any waterway, Henry said.
The Marine Board decline to do that, but officials instead perused the roster of lakes where all motors are banned, looking for lakes where electric motors might be appropriate.
Henry said the board had to delete some lakes from that roster because those lakes have motor bans that are enforced by a state statute rather than an administrative rule.
The Marine Board can change administrative rules, Henry said, but only the Legislature and the governor, or voters, can tinker with state statutes.
State officials also weeded out waterways in wilderness areas, where a federal law banning motorized vehicles supersedes state regulations.
Eventually the Marine Board pared the list to 12 lakes, of which three are in Eastern Oregon: Mud Lake; Bull Prairie Reservoir in western Grant County; and Fish Lake, on Steens Mountain in Harney County.
An earlier list included Morgan Lake near La Grande, Henry said, but officials from La Grande, which manages the lake, objected to the state's proposal to allow electric motors there.