The Jackson County Parks Department wants to make lemonade out of this year's low-water conditions at Howard Prairie Lake.
The agency plans this fall to take advantage of what is expected to be extremely low lake levels 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 ramp stopped at the lake elevation of 4,514 feet, according to the parks department.
This fall crews will extend the ramp 55 feet farther out into the lake bed, reaching 9 vertical feet deep, 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 start in mid-September or later, Lambert says. Construction crews will have to wait for the lake to drop at least a few feet below 4,505-foot elevation to pour the concrete, which cannot be done underwater, 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 from 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.
The Marine Board also approved a $48,015 grant to fund Oregon Youth Conservation Corps work at several Oregon boat ramps, including four county-operated ramps along the Rogue River in Josephine County — at Pearce Riffle, Lathrop's Landing, Robertson Bridge and Indian Mary Park.
The grants come from a fund fed by state boating registration fees and an excise tax on boat gas. The Marine Board receives no state general fund money.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.