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A Lack of Clear Vision In Waldo Lake Management

The great-grandson of Waldo Lake's namesake expresses his concern over the Oregon Aviation Board's desire to allow seaplanes to land and take off from the pristine lake.

A Lack of Clear Vision In Waldo Lake Management

A kayaker paddles along an inlet at pristine Waldo Lake (photo by Cher Rydberg).

This letter was submitted by Bruce A. Johnson of Bend to Governor John Kitzhaber. Mr. Johnson is the great-grandson of Waldo Lake namesake and early Oregon conservationist Judge John B. Waldo.

Dear Governor Kitzhaber,

I am writing to urge you, as the elected Governor of the State of Oregon and member of the State Land Board, to lead an effort to establish a permanent and binding preservation of Waldo Lake in its pure and natural state.

This lake, of remarkable clarity with water considered among the purest in the word, and enjoyed by respectful recreationists for its solitude and natural qualities, is at risk of being gradually degraded due to the lack of a single, unified effort to protect it from detrimental activities.


Over 120 years ago Judge John Breckenridge Waldo, my great-grandfather and Waldo Lake's namesake, proposed and championed the preservation of a strip of land in Oregon twelve miles on either side of the summit of the Cascade Range from the border of California to the border of Washington, arguing:

"That the altitude of said strip of land, its wildness, game, fish, water and other fowl, its scenery, the beauty of its flora, the purity of its atmosphere, and healthfulness, and other attractions render it most desirable that it be set aside and kept free forever as a public reserve, park and resort for the people of Oregon and of the United States." [Oregon House Joint Memorial No. 8, 1889]

Waldo's proposal was met with opposition from stockmen, timber speculators and homesteaders who wanted to use the land for their own economic advantage. In 1893, Waldo and others prevailed, convincing President Grover Cleveland to establish the Cascade Range Forest Reserve, from which the six National Forests and designated Wilderness areas in Oregon's Cascade range originated.

Since then, the area's timber, mineral, wildlife, and water resources, including Waldo Lake, have been divided among various, often competing interests.

On January 31st, the Oregon Aviation Board will hold a public hearing in Springfield to hear testimony on a proposed rule to allow seaplanes on Waldo Lake. The board, and the Department of Aviation's director, have made it clear they support allowing seaplanes to land on the lake as a means to "access the lake as a form of transportation similar to a motorized vehicle driving to the site." The board was given this authority because no other agency or official has clear jurisdiction over the operation of seaplanes while landing or taking off from a waterway.

Without the intervention of your office, or other agencies with appropriate jurisdiction, the Aviation Board will have the freedom to determine landing seaplanes on this unique body of water is an appropriate activity –

  • Despite the Marine Board's recent decision prohibiting boats with internal combustion engines on the lake.
  • Despite a similar ban on motorboats on Waldo Lake by the U.S. Forest Service, which determined motorized use was an incompatible activity.
  • Despite overwhelming public support for keeping Waldo Lake as a place for unspoiled recreation in relative solitude.
  • Despite the lake being surrounded on three sides by designated Wilderness.
  • Despite former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers limnologist Douglas Larson, an adjunct professor at Portland State University, who studied the water quality of Waldo Lake for 20 years and publicly urged a ban on motorboats to protect its fragile ecology.
  • Despite the inability to inspect seaplanes for invasive species until after the aircraft have already taken off from an infested waterway and landed on Waldo Lake.
  • And despite the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act, which singles out Waldo Lake as a body of water of such importance that:

"The people of Oregon find that many of the free-flowing rivers of Oregon and Waldo Lake and lands adjacent to such lake and rivers possess outstanding scenic, fish, wildlife, geological, botanical, historic, archaeologic, and outdoor recreation values of present and future benefit to the public" ... (to make it necessary to establish a policy that) "would protect and preserve the natural setting and water quality of the lake and such rivers and fulfill other conservation purposes. It is therefore the policy of Oregon to preserve for the benefit of the public Waldo Lake and selected parts of the state's free-flowing rivers." [ORS 390.815]

I am urging you to provide guidance to the members of the Aviation Board in their decision-making process, and to remind them they serve for the benefit of all citizens of the State of Oregon, not just a few seaplane operators.

I similarly hope, Governor Kitzhaber, you will use the influence of your office to bring state agencies, boards, and other stakeholders together to establish a comprehensive and permanent agreement to protect the purity and beauty of Waldo Lake for our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and endless generations to follow.


Bruce A. Johnson

A public hearing regarding seaplane access on Waldo Lake will be held Thursday, January 31st from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in the Ken Long Conference Room at the Willamalane Center in Springfield, at 250 South 32nd Street.

Waldo Lake

(photo by Greg Zurbrugg)

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