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A 100-yard raft of debris from recent rains is clogged near the Lost Creek Lake spillway. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Lost Creek logjam

TRAIL — Water managers and marine patrollers are mulling whether they will need to remove the largest pile of woody debris collected at Lost Creek Lake in nearly two decades before the popular waterskiing season begins in late May.

Two high-water events this winter flushed huge rafts of logs and other woody debris that have created a large jam near the dam's spillway, extending more than 100 yards off the bank, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The jam does not yet impede boat traffic at the Taklema boat ramp nor the multi-port intake tower used to adjust water outflows and temperatures, and the agency has no money budgeted for debris-removal at the upper Rogue River reservoir.

"There will be bits and pieces of it all over the reservoir, but the bulk of it now is at the dam," said Jim Buck, the Corps' Rogue Basin project manager.

"If it was around the intake tower, we'd have to address that," Buck said. "Right now, we're just keeping an eye on where it's at and seeing if it'll stay in that location."

Buck said it is the largest amount of woody debris in the reservoir during his 17 years as project manager, and during that time the Corps has not had to physically remove large numbers of logs from the water there.

But this could be the year.

"It's got to be gone, bottom line, in my opinion," said Sgt. Shawn Richards of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department's marine program. "We can move it wherever, but we've got to get it out of there."

Lost Creek Lake is one of Oregon's most popular waterskiing and fishing lakes, and Richards fears mayhem among waterskiers should logs and sticks come into play.

The bulk of the reservoir's boating effort comes between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

"We're going to have to figure out a way to get it out before the season starts," Richards said. "My hope is we can all work together and get it done."

A contractor would have to be hired to use log booms to corral the logs and drag them to a location where they can be scooped out and piled, Buck said. If that happens, the Corps likely would issue firewood permits for people to cut and haul away the wood, he said.

Another option, Richards said, is to drag it all into a cove and secure it with log booms and wait for the water levels to drop and expose the wood on the dry lake bed, where it could be cut as firewood.

The U.S. Forest Service occasionally has had to collect floating logs at Applegate Reservoir, often corralling them with booms. But Applegate has a 10 mph speed limit and is dominated by anglers traveling at slow enough speeds to avoid floating logs.

When Lost Creek's woody dilemma first surfaced Feb. 2, it was largely relegated to the waters upstream of Peyton Bridge. That area is a no-wake zone avoided by skiers who need more speed.

While the cops and Corps keep eyeing the wood, one thing they likely won't have to keep tabs on is the pesky blue-green algae bloom that has dogged the reservoir since Dec. 4.

The bloom appeared to have died off in the past week, and Corps officials Thursday sent off water samples to be tested for the levels of cyanobacteria or any associated toxins, Buck said. If the water is deemed safe, the voluntary advisory against water contact there will be lifted, and Buck said that could be as early as Tuesday.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman. 

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