The Jackson County Parks Department is making some lemonade out of this year's low-water conditions at Howard Prairie Lake.
The agency plans this fall to take advantage of what are expected to be extremely low-water conditions by lengthening the concrete boat ramp at Willow Point.
The current ramp was completed in 2009 but high water levels at the Talent Irrigation District reservoir meant the concrete toe stopped at the lake elevation of 4,514 feet, according to the parks department.
This fall crews will extend that ramp 55 feet further down the lake bed, reaching 9 vertical feet down, county parks Manager Steve Lambert says.
Willow Point is on the lake's southwest side where Willow Creek flows into the reservoir. It is off Hyatt Prairie Road south of Howard Prairie Resort, which is also a county-owned and operated facility.
"It will be a good addition," Lambert says. "After the resort, Willow Point Campground is the next most popular place on the lake."
Work on the ramp likely will be done in mid-September or later, Lambert says. Construction crews will have to wait for the lake to drop at least a few feet below elevation 4,505 to pour the concrete, which cannot be done under water, he says.
Once completed, the Willow Point ramp will descend to the same level as the Klum Landing ramp, Lambert says.
The Oregon State Marine Board last week approved a $52,265 grant of state boater funds to anchor the project. The county kicked in $12,735 in cash as well as $4,687 of in-kind contributions for a project total of $69,687.
The county money came out of the general parks fund, Lambert says.
"If I can get a ramp that low there for $12,000, it's worth it," he says.
— Mark Freeman