November 07, 2002 11:00 pm
NO MOTORS ALLOWED: The La Grande City Council has decided not to allow the use of electric motors on Morgan Lake. (File photo).
NO MOTORS ALLOWED: The La Grande City Council has decided not to allow the use of electric motors on Morgan Lake. (File photo).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Susan Badger Jones goes to Morgan Lake four or five times a week to watch and enjoy the sunset.

"It is the only public green space with a body of water in the area, which is peaceful," Jones told a La Grande city advisory commission earlier this fall.

Wednesday night, the city council agreed with her, voting that the serenity of Morgan Lake will remain.

The council unanimously voted not to allow the use of electric motors on the city-owned lake, which is in a 240-acre park three miles southwest of La Grande.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission had been asked to pursue permitting electric motors, and held two meetings on the issue.

After discussing the issue at meetings in September and October, the commission recommended to the city council that it ask the Oregon Marine Board to change the regulations to permit electric motors.

No motors of any kind are allowed on the lake now, and it should remain thus, the council decided.

Testimony before the advisory commission meetings, counting written testimony, was 8-4 against permitting electric motors.

The 5-2 commission decision was based, in part, on the idea that older residents and disabled people would have greater access and be able to use the lake more if electric motors were allowed.

The city council didn't see that as an issue. And at one parks commission hearing, Edward Kehr, 80, said he and his wife are opposed to allowing electric motors. There are several locations on the lake where senior citizens can get to the water, he said.

"Changes will open the door to further problems, especially increased usage of a small lake that is already over-fished, and traffic will double on a road that is not equipped to handle it," Kehr said.

Other opponents of permitting electric motors said people would leave their gas motors attached to their boats and gas or oil leaks would occur. It's an enforcement issue, too, the council was told.

"The lake doesn't drain well and oil slicks will stay on the lake if there are spills from gas motors," Steve Antell said.

He said nesting geese at one end of the lake are now virtually undisturbed, but boats with motors would be able to maneuver about the lake more and likely would disturb them and other wildlife.

He said, the lake "now provides a quality outdoor recreational experience" and that should continue to be the emphasis there.

Antell, who has been using the lake for 15 years, said law enforcement officers are not there much, which would make it difficult to enforce the regulation if adopted.

Electric motors do make noise, the council was told.

Other lakes in the area, including Jubilee Lake, Anthony Lake and Balm Creek Reservoir, allow electric motors without conflict with non-motorized boats, Brad Workinger indicated in written testimony.

Councilor Joel Goldstein said, "This is a unique lake. There are opportunities to use electric motors on other lakes. Noise would be an issue, and I would bet people would put gas motors into the lake."

Councilor Art Rhodes said that not allowing electric motors does not deny anyone access to the lake.

Councilor Doyle Slater agreed with others that "this is a fragile environment, a small lake. Allowing electric motors would compound the enforcement issue. There are very few places of solitude near here."