Float the boats: Efforts to make Detroit Lake more accessible funded

February, 2017 Posted in Community, Nature

By Mary Owen

Proposed updates to Detroit Lake may save marinas from having to close early when water levels are low.

“In 2015, the lake never filled high enough to cover the docks,” Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron said. “A lot of time and energy resources were spent on moving locations to accommodate boats and RVs.”

In 2016, the water rose again and floated the docks for a while, but lack of snowpack and rain caused water levels to drop again, Cameron said.

“Detroit Lake Marina actually lost a whole month of their season,” Cameron said. “Kane’s was able to stay open another week or two. So basically we’re looking at how to put in plans to be more resilient during low water level years.”

Last July, Congressman Kurt Schrader and Gov. Kate Brown’s Regional Solutions team joined Cameron in touring Kane’s, Detroit Lake and Sportsman Club Private marinas.

In a letter to his constituents, Schrader said they were able to see firsthand the effects of low water on small businesses up and down the Santiam Canyon, including the Detroit Lake Reservoir.

“Tourism, driven largely by boating and the capacity to moor boats at the marinas on the reservoir, is essential to Detroit Lake’s economic success,” Schrader said.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the water level in the reservoir during summer months is primarily dependent on timely spring rainfall. During that time period, stored water from dams in the system is released to maintain minimum flows in tributaries and provide a healthy water flow throughout the entire system.

“When spring delivers less than normal rainfall, the whole system including the reservoir is affected,” Schrader said.

At a meeting several months ago, two viable solutions were proposed: extend the ramps to make them more user-friendly, and excavate the ground under the footprint of the marinas to allow the docks to float longer in lower water.

Cameron said a grant through the Marine Board will help the marinas put in extensions to gangplanks so if the water is low, people can still get down to the docks.

As of October 2016, the project received a “Business Oregon, Business Retention Service Grant” to hire a consultant.

“We want to provide a current tentative timeline and, as with many decisions for small businesses, the marinas’ work schedule remains adaptable,” Schrader said. “We anticipate finalizing the permit process and having a clear work plan before the 2017 boating season begins.”

Schrader said marina owners hope to complete prep work by the spring of 2017 which includes reinforcing road ways for heavy equipment, installing additional pilings and extending gang planks along with required dock services.

“This would put us on track to complete the project by the end of 2017 to early 2018, allowing for a large enough window to complete the necessary work safely,” he said.

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