Two of Oregon’s most popular lakes are in the process of being designated Outstanding Resource Waters, a label that offers the lakes additional state protection.
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality received a petition in April to designate Waldo Lake, the 420-foot deep lake located in Lane County in the Cascade Mountains. DEQ staff then decided to also consider adding Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States, which is overseen by the National Park Service.
The petition for Waldo Lake came from the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, a nonprofit organization working to protect natural resources in the region.
“We have been studying that petition and the staff said, ‘If we are going to consider Waldo Lake, we will consider Crater Lake as well,’” said Harry Esteve, DEQ communications manager.
Both lakes meet the specific criteria for Outstanding Resource Waters, which are bodies of water that have extraordinary water quality, ecological values or a need to maintain critical habitat.
Outstanding Resource Waters policy was established in 1991, but only the north fork of the Smith River has the designation so far. That river, in southwest Oregon, was designated in 2017.
The designation would not change activities allowed at Waldo Lake, such as kayaking, swimming and camping, or change the way the National Park Service operates Crater Lake or Crater Lake National Park, Esteve said.
How exactly the two lakes will be protected through the designation is still being determined. DEQ will develop a plan for each lake and schedule public meetings to create rules for the protection of the lakes. The petition for Waldo Lake asks DEQ to prohibit new or expanded wastewater discharges and other activities that would degrade water quality.
“That is all to be determined in the rule-making process,” Esteve said. “It’s just kind of laying this marker down that will ensure there is no degradation of the current water quality.”
DEQ will work with the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service to adopt the policies to protect the two lakes’ water quality. The process is in the beginning phases, Esteve said.
“This is really just the start,” he said.
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