Ban float planes on Waldo Lake


Published Jan 31, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

More than three years into the effort to ban motorized vehicles on Waldo Lake, the job still is undone. Float planes currently may land on the small lake about 90 miles southwest of Bend by road, though no other planes or motored boats are allowed. Now the state Aviation Board is considering extending the ban to float planes, as well.

The move is not without its opponents. The lake has been used by both motorized boats and planes for years, and there are those who would like to continue doing so. In fact, they successfully challenged the first ban put in place by the state’s Marine Board in the state Court of Appeals and are preparing to challenge the current ban, according to Michael Gillette, an attorney representing those who oppose the ban.

Waldo has, no doubt, one of the most interesting histories of Oregon lakes. During the early 1900s the Waldo Lake Irrigation and Power Company built a dam and accompanying tunnel to move water to the Willamette Valley to the west. The dam and tunnel were completed in 1914, and had they been used for their original purpose they could have lowered the lake level by as much as 25 feet, according to a report prepared by the U.S. Forest Service in 1987.

That never happened. Accompanying power generation facilities were never built, in part because the company could find no takers for the electricity it hoped to sell. As for irrigation water, Willamette Valley farmers saw no need for it, according to the Forest Service report. Finally, the federal Power Commission denied a permit request for the project in 1933, and it was abandoned.

Today Waldo Lake, the state’s second largest at 10 square miles, and second deepest, is favored by fishermen, campers and hikers, many of whom support the float plane ban. The state hopes to assure that it is peaceful, as well.

Adding float planes to the list of banned motorized vehicles would help do just that. The Aviation Board is expected to decide the issue later this spring. It should extend the current ban to include floatplanes, as well.

More than three years into the effort to ban motorized vehicles on Waldo Lake, the job still is undone. Float planes currently may land on the small lake about 50 miles southwest of Bend by road, though no other planes or motorized boats are allowed. Now the state Aviation Board is considering extending the ban to float planes, as well.

The move is not without its opponents. The lake has been used by both motorized boats and planes for years, and there are those who would like to continue doing so. In fact, they successfully challenged the first ban put in place by the state’s Marine Board in the state Court of Appeals and are preparing to challenge the current ban, according to Michael Gillette, an attorney representing those who oppose the ban.

Waldo has, no doubt, one of the most interesting histories of Oregon lakes. During the early 1900s the Waldo Lake Irrigation and Power Co. built a dam and accompanying tunnel to move water to the Willamette Valley to the west. The dam and tunnel were completed in 1914 and, had they been used for their original purpose, they could have lowered the lake level by as much as 25 feet, according to a report prepared by the U.S. Forest Service in 1987.

That never happened. Accompanying power generation facilities were never built, in part because the company could find no takers for the electricity it hoped to sell. As for irrigation water, Willamette Valley farmers saw no need for it, according to the Forest Service report. Finally, the federal Power Commission denied a permit request for the project in 1933, and it was abandoned.

Today Waldo Lake — the state’s second largest at 10 square miles, and second deepest — is favored by fishermen, campers and hikers, many of whom support the float plane ban. The state hopes to assure that it is peaceful, as well.

Adding float planes to the list of banned motorized vehicles would help do just that. The Aviation Board is expected to decide the issue later this spring. It should extend the current ban to include float planes, as well.