Monday, 16 October 2006 01:08

Silver Lake: New Restrictions On Water Craft and Speeds Proposed

Silver LakeConcerns over speed limits and water craft safety on Silver Lake dominated a recent El Dorado Irrigation District meeting. Silver Lake is a popular Amador County destination just east of the El Dorado County line. The lake is part of Project 184, a system of lakes, canals and a powerhouse that the El Dorado Irrigation District purchased from Pacific Gas and Electric in 1999. Like most alpine lakes, Silver Lake is characterized by numerous boulders and rock outcroppings and a fluctuating water level, said Don Pearson, the irrigation district’s recreation director. Boaters face hazards beneath the water, and from logs and fallen trees along the shoreline, he said. Because the lake sits in a bowl, noise from boat motors and personal watercraft "booms off the mountains," Pearson said. There are no posted speed limits or restrictions on the types of watercraft allowed on the lake, according to Pearson.

Silver Lake Director Bill George, noting that he and fellow board member George Osborne walked the shoreline a couple of years ago, said the lake is about three miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. People can ski down the center of the lake at the north end, Pearson said, but channels around Treasure Island toward the south are too narrow. "It's well-suited for fishing and non-motorized craft," Pearson said, but conflicts arise when those quieter recreational activites are combined with fast boats, water-skiers and people on personal watercraft. Concerns were also raised about the use of ski boats that are becoming more powerful and the abilities of those boats to raise waves and large wakes. Pearson said the U.S. Forest Service, which also has jurisdiction over lands around the lake, favors limiting speeds at Silver Lake. But the district would have to enlist the support of the Amador County Board of Supervisors, he said, explaining that it would require a county ordinance to set speed limits. Amador County also would be responsible for enforcement, Pearson said, noting that the district has no police powers. Director John Fraser suggested banning motorized watercraft on the lake, but Osborne said many fishing boats have motors. Director George Wheeldon said the speed limit, coupled with a ban on personal watercraft, water-skiing and aquaboarding, would encourage more tranquil activities such as fishing and kayaking. “This is pristine, almost next to wilderness," he said of the lake and its setting. "Let's keep it that way.” He said plenty of lakes remain available for speedboats, water-skiing and other motorized activities. The committee directed staff members to place the speed limit and use restrictions on a board agenda for a formal hearing. If the limits are eventually recommended the matter will then come before the Amador County Board of Supervisors.

El Dorado Irrigation District Director Bill George The U.S. Forest Service Amador County