Of the Baker City Herald

RICHLAND Baker County picked a good spring to extend the boat ramp at county-owned Holcomb Park.

With all but inaccessible to the Baker County boating public because it's been drawn down about 36 feet from full pool to provide for flood control, late March and early April has proven the ideal timeframe to lay down 5,500 yards of crushed rock to lengthen the boat ramp by 137 feet. A concrete surface will be added this fall.

The extension will give boaters access to the Powder River arm of Brownlee Reservoir during times when the Army Corps of Engineers directs Idaho Power Corp., which owns three hydroelectric dams in the Hells Canyon Complex, to draw the reservoir down below full pool for flood control in the spring.

It took county road crews nine working days to spread crushed rock along the length of the extension. Crews also added riprap larger rocks along the sides of the ramp for erosion control, said Roadmaster Ken Helgerson, who was out with six other employees Monday on the last day of construction.

The extension is the first phase for planned development at Holcomb Park, said Lorrie Harvey, the county's parks director.

andquot;We think this will make a huge difference for Holcomb development,andquot; she said.

Development plans for Holcomb include a new rail system along the boat ramp for boaters to tie up to when they get on and off their vessel.

New RV spaces and a restroom with showers are also planned over the next two years at Holcomb Park, the lesser-developed of the county's twin parks near Richland. This year, the parks department plans a new fish-cleaning station, septic system, a new well and water system and an RV dump station.

A $50,000 Oregon State Marine Board grant paid for the boat ramp extension. Harvey said the road department will bill the parks department for the labor and material that workers put into the project over the past two weeks.

andquot;I don't know how much they'll charge me,andquot; she said. andquot;They haven't sent me a bill yet.andquot;

Pushing the trucks up the ramp

At a 15-degree slope, the boat ramp extension is slightly steeper than the 14-degree slope of the initial boat ramp, Helgerson said. The pitch of the extension proved too steep for two new belly-dump loaders the road department recently purchased from a Canadian firm.

Their solution was for Helgerson, in a Caterpillar bulldozer, to push the truck up the boat ramp every time it dumped a load of crushed rock.

andquot;This facility is going to be a lot more useful than it was,andquot; Helgerson said. andquot;It's eight feet wider on each side.andquot;

He said that the boat ramp extension will have concrete poured on this fall, after the crush rock has had a few months to settle.

Harvey asked the road department to perform the work because she knew Helgerson and his crew could complete the project in the narrow timeframe that the reservoir will be relatively low. She said that twice in March, road crews were ready to get to work, only to have to cancel because the reservoir was too high.

andquot;They just had to be on call,andquot; she said. andquot;People think (the Army Corps of Engineers) drew (the reservoir) down just for our ramp, but that's not true. We just took advantage of the timing for flood control.andquot;

Apparently the work was completed just in time. Idaho Power has been filling the reservoir the past few days. This Saturday, it's scheduled to be within 28 feet of fool pool 2,077 feet. On Tuesday, the reservoir was 40 feet below full.