Of the Baker City Herald

The Bureau of Land Management plans to clarify a murky, and potentially muddy, dilemma that confronts boaters at a popular park on the Oregon shore of Brownlee Reservoir.

This fall BLM officials intend to extend one lane of the two-lane boat-launching ramp at Spring Recreation Site so that both lanes are the same length, said Debbie Lyons, a spokesperson for BLM's Vale District.

In addition, the agency will connect that ramp with a nearby, single-lane launch, Lyons said.

Spring Recreation Site is along the Snake River Road about five miles north of Huntington.

Although the project won't allow boaters to unload their craft at a lower water level that what's possible now, extending the shorter of the two lanes on one ramp should alleviate confusion for boaters, Lyons said.

Now, at certain water levels one lane is usable while the other lane, even though it may be partially submerged, is not, she said.

Boaters who try to launch off that shorter lane could get their tow rigs stuck in the mud, she said.

BLM has been preparing to revamp the ramps, but the agency was waiting for word on its application for a $34,000 grant from the Oregon State Marine Board.

The Marine Board awarded that grant during a meeting Thursday in Portland.

The money, which BLM will match, also will help pay to replace the vault toilets at Spring Recreation Site with restrooms that are accessible to people in wheelchairs, Lyons said.

Spring Recreation Site ranks third in popularity among boat-launching sites at Brownlee, which attracts more boaters than any other place in Northeastern Oregon, according to the Marine Board.

Brownlee ranks 11th among Oregon waterbodies, with 40,162 boat use days in 2004, according to the Marine Board's triennial survey of Oregon boat owners.

BLM's boat ramp project is not the only one proposed on Brownlee.

Baker County plans to extend the ramp at Hewitt Park this spring. Work could start as soon as this week, and take two to four weeks, said Pam Du Mars, Hewitt Park manager.