Several changes could be coming to Lake Billy Chinook, thanks to a proposal to limit wakes and unauthorized anchoring in a unique inlet.

The Oregon State Marine Board is holding a special board meeting on Tuesday to discuss a handful of issues, including a petition from members of the Fly Creek Inlet subdivision that would prohibit motorboat operators from generating a wake in the narrow inlet. Residents of the unique subdivision say the rule change is a chance to cut down on property damage and erosion caused by the motorboats.

“Some of the wakes are 5 feet tall, and they’re causing a lot of destruction,” said Guinevere Johnson, one of the residents behind the petition.

The petition also requests that the marine board adopt a rule to cut down on boats anchoring in the cove without authorization from property owners, which Johnson said would establish a specific area designation for the inlet, while clarifying existing rules for boaters on the popular lake.

Fly Creek Inlet, a cove located on the Metolius arm of the lake that is about 1,300 feet wide at its mouth, is particularly susceptible to damage from motorboat wakes.

The inlet narrows to less than 10 feet at its narrowest point, and Johnson said the narrow geography amplifies and concentrates wakes.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” Johnson said.

The inlet is also home to a unique 16-lot subdivision that was established in 2008, according to Johnson. The lots, which range from 2.5 to 14 acres, average a 50-50 split between land and water along the edge of the lake, and the private subdivision is permitted to have up to 27 houseboats reside in the inlet.

She added that the houseboats and other facilities in the inlet are anchored in a specific way to accommodate seasonal fluctuations. However, the wakes can damage the lines, causing houseboats to drift into the middle of the lake.

James Cogle, environmental program coordinator for the marine board, said he wasn’t familiar with this occurring on Lake Billy Chinook, but acknowledged it could be an issue. However, OSMB staff recommended that the board not adopt the proposal, in part because of how staff interpreted Oregon’s public access rules to allow anchoring.

“We associate the need to anchor as part of recreation,” Cogle said.

Johnson countered by saying the property owners own the portion of the lake below the surface on their property lines,

“They are, in fact, trespassing, when they drop an anchor,” she added.

In addition to the Fly Creek Inlet provision, the marine board will vote on Tuesday to approve a grant that would fund upgrades to two floating bathrooms on Lake Billy Chinook.

Janine Belleque said floating toilets, which have been popular with boaters in other parts of the state since the early 1990s, were introduced on the Central Oregon lake around 1999. Belleque said two of the floating aluminum structures have plumbing lines that connect the toilets to a holding tank and are an inch narrower than their design standards. Ashley Massey, spokeswoman for the marine board, added that having the correct line diameter could cut down on malfunctions.

The grant, which would provide $3,949 in state funding, would provide line that meets specification and take the toilets apart to make sure the meet their design standards to avoid future malfunctions.

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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