Lakes on the list

A new state law could allow residents to request that electric-powered boats be allowed on some waterways where they are previously banned. A list of the affected lakes by county:

Deschutes: Charlton, Devils, Irish, Lucky, North and South Twin, Taylor, Three Creek and Todd lakes

Jefferson: Horseshoe, Dark and Olallie lakes, and on the portion of the Deschutes River between Pelton Dam and the Wasco County line

Clackamas: Trillium Lake

Douglas: Opal and Timpanagos lakes

Hood River: Lost Lake

Jackson: Squaw Lakes

Lane: Gold Lake

Linn: Clear Lake

Marion: Breitenbush Lake


Electric-powered boats won’t start appearing soon on 21 state lakes, rivers and waterways where they were previously banned, despite a new law aimed at improving access for disabled and older residents.

“No changes will happen right away on these waterways,” Ashley Massey, spokeswoman for the Oregon Marine Board, said Wednesday. The board will be responsible for implementing the law.

Central Oregon is by far the main region affected by the law. Of the 21 waterways that are now eligible to allow electric-motored watercraft, Deschutes County has nine lakes on the list, while Jefferson County has three lakes and a section of the Deschutes River.

The timeline on the new law won’t affect the 2019 summer season. The law will not go into effect until 91 days after the Legislature adjourns this month. That means any change wouldn’t come until late September at the earliest.

Even then, the waterways are not automatically opened to electric­-powered craft. Residents must file a request with the Oregon Marine Board, which will then solicit public comment. If a request generates heavy interest, a public hearing would be held in a city near the lake, river or other waterway under consideration.

House Bill 3168 was introduced by Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, after a constituent contacted her to say the ban on powered boats on some waterways in the state discriminated against disabled and older residents who are unable to paddle canoes and kayaks or row boats.

The legislation glided through the Legislature. During a March hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources, there was no opposition to the bill.

“As we age we adjust to many physical conditions,” Peter Ware, a member of Rogue Flyfishers, from Medford, said in a written testimony. “Bad backs, arthritis, and other health issues slow down but do not stop seniors from enjoying their life experiences.”

The House passed the bill unanimously April 4. It was approved by the Senate 25-3 on May 23. Brown signed the bill June 4.

Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, and Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, voted for the bill in the House. Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, supported the bill in the Senate. Helt said the bill was presented as a way to help more people to experience state resources.

“I want to make sure everyone has access to our waterways and is able to enjoy them.,” Helt said Tuesday. “Limiting it to small electric motors will not have an impact, I believe, on our beautiful waterways.”

Opposition to the bill later arose on social media after news reports of the law earlier this month.

Oregon Wild wilderness program manager Erik Fernandez, who is based in Bend, said the statewide conservationist group was concerned the bill didn’t raise questions until it was already through the legislative process. He noted the small amount of testimony at the hearing as an example.

“The lack of public process and discussion on this issue is disappointing — we expect better from the Legislature,” Fernandez said Wednesday. “Places like Devils Lake are a small peaceful oasis in an otherwise all-motorized series of lakes in the Cascades. Oregon Wild members are disappointed to see fewer and fewer nonmotorized lakes. Almost all of the medium and large lakes in Oregon have motors on them. While that’s appropriate on many lakes, there should be a few lakes where motors aren’t present.”

The law specifically limits eligible watercraft to electric-­powered slow-speed motors that don’t create a wake behind the boat.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750,