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Speeds will slow on Diamond Lake as angling returns

The last remnant of the effects of tui chubs on Diamond Lake is about to go away.

Waterskiers invited to the eastern Douglas County Lake nine years ago to replace anglers lost when chubs harmed the fishing are about to get legislated off Diamond Lake again — under orders from the very entity that invited them.

The Oregon State Marine Board is proposing an end to the 45-mph speed limit from late mornings through evenings, returning the lake's traditional 10-mph limit favored by trout anglers who don't like being swamped by waves from speeding boats.

Despite a month-long public comment period that ends March 31, the rule change is considered a slam dunk because not doing so would violate Oregon law.

When the 1999 Oregon Legislature passed the 45-mph limit, it specifically ordered the Marine Board to rescind it once the lake was deemed healthy enough for stocking.

The lake was poisoned with the chemical rotenone in September 2006, then restocked last spring to jump-start what instantly turned into a fantastic fishery.

With the lake set to reopen to angling April 26, the Marine Board wants to comply with the Oregon Revised Statutes as directed by the Legislature, says Randy Henry, the Marine Board's operations policy analyst.

"If you look at the ORS, it's pretty specific," Henry says. "We're doing a rubber stamp here because the Legislature told us to do it."

Diamond Lake is one of a handful of Oregon waterways on which boating laws are considered and passed directly by the Legislature, Henry says. Most of those, such as Diamond Lake, had boating laws in place before the Marine Board was created in 1958, he says.

But water ski enthusiasts shouldn't see this as an exercise in futility, Henry says.

The process "opens up the discussion for the Legislature" to consider a new rule welcoming back waterskiers in some fashion, Henry says.

"Certainly, if people like it the way it is, we'll forward this information on to the Legislature for their review," Henry says.

The Marine Board can expect letters from some visitors to the Diamond Lake Resort, which is the hub of activity there. Most view the current speed limit as more help than a hindrance, says Rick Rockholt, the resort's marketing director.

Anglers like the faster speeds that allow them to get to far-flung fishing holes faster in the morning, Rockholt says. Also, the waterskiers tend to be trout anglers looking for something to do in the afternoon, he says.

"With the price of fuel, folks want to go places that have a variety of recreation," Rockholt says. "We feel that speed limit gives us some of that variety.

"The problem is, the law's the law," he says. "But maybe we can get them to bend that a little bit."

Waterskiers and trout anglers had a year to live together last summer and both sides seemed to play well with others.

"There really wasn't much conflict on this lake," says Mari Brick, an ODFW fisheries biologist working on the Diamond Lake Restoration Project. "People weren't very interested in waterskiing until the fishing (slowed).

Fishing is best in the spring and fall, Brick says, while most waterskiers didn't want to brave the cool High Cascades snow runoff until mid-summer.

Also, the speed limit remained 10 mph during early mornings and evening periods favored by trout anglers, Brick says. The 45-mph speed limit has run daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The speed limit, however, remained at 10 mph within 200 yards of all docks, boat ramps, swim areas, campgrounds, summer-home sites, water inlets and outlets.

Also, the current rules banned Jet Skis and other forms of personal watercraft.

All comments to the Marine Board on the speed-limit issue at Diamond Lake must be made in writing. No public hearing was scheduled.

Mail written comments to June LeTarte at OSMB, P.O. Box 14145, Salem, OR, 97309.

E-mailed comments should be directed to June.LeTarte@state.or.us, or they can be faxed to 503-378-4597.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.