Old outboard motors welcome to the lake

Central Arkansas Water withdrew its proposed rule to ban two-stroke outboard engines on Lake Maumelle.

The proposal was in a package that accompanied Central Arkansas Water’s plan to pull Lake Maumelle down 10 feet from the normal pool to eradicate hydrilla. Anglers love hydrilla because it provides a breeding ground for juvenile fish, as well as a shelter and thermal haven for adult fish.

Central Arkansas Water dislikes hydrilla because it interferes with the organization’s mission to provide clean drinking water to the public. Raven Lawson, watershed manager for Central Arkansas Water, said hydrilla produces and retains sediments and decaying organic matter at a level in the water column that enters water treatment plants. Detoxifying those pollutants requires additional chemicals, which increases costs.

The late Jim Harvey, long-time executive director of CAW, said the additional chemicals pose a potential cancer-causing risk.

To eliminate hydrilla, CAW wants to lower the water level to expose the plants to three hard freezes. The air temperature has reached freezing, but it hasn’t been cold enough to freeze the exposed parts of the plants, Lawson said. It should get cold enough to freeze the roots.

Bass fishing is excellent on Lake Maumelle. The weight of first place in tournaments is comparable to some of our best bass lakes. Anglers equate good fishing with the hydrilla.

I’ve been doing my job for eight years now and fishing on Lake Maumelle has been good all those eight years,” Lawson said. ‘Guess what. We fished well before we had hydrilla!”

At a public meeting in October to discuss the measures at West Rock Marina, several fishermen claimed that birds, namely coots, brought in the hydrilla by eating it at one location and expelling it into Lake Maumelle. That’s unlikely. Coots have lived on Lake Maumelle for decades. They haven’t brought in a hydrilla in all these years, so it doesn’t make sense that they would have brought it in recently.

Most likely, the hydrilla came to the lake by boat, which is why the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission insists that boaters sterilize their craft after visiting other lakes. Someone may also have introduced hydrilla intentionally.

The proposed ban on two-stroke outboards upset fishermen more than the eradication of the hydrilla. The proposal appeared to have no motive, except that Central Arkansas Water believed it would convey a progressive “green” message. Two-stroke outboard engines are in danger of dying out. A four-stroke is more efficient and comparable in price to a new two-stroke, if you can find a new two-stroke.

Even then, two-stroke outboards made in the past two decades meet environmental standards. They are a lot cleaner than the smog samples and oil spills that occurred on every lake in the 1960s and 1970s.

Central Arkansas Water has not said or even suggested that two-strokes pollute the lake. Enough fishermen made comments against the proposal to persuade Central Arkansas Water to reconsider it.

Lawson also said Central Arkansas Water is considering opening part of Lake Winona to kayaking. Kayaking is very popular on the upper part of Lake Maumelle where kayaks are allowed. We’re not sure why they’re not allowed on Winona and Maumelle at all. In cockpit-style kayaks, the driver is completely enclosed and not in contact with the water. On sit-on-top kayaks, the operators are on hard decks above the water. Many kayaks are suitable for salt water. Lake Maumelle can get rough, but not as rough as Florida’s Pine Island Sound for a hurricane. I sailed a Hobie over several miles of open water under those conditions two years ago and was never in danger of drifting out of the boat.

It would make Lake Maumelle even more attractive to an underserved demographic, helping to integrate Lake Maumelle more deeply into Central Arkansas’ active lifestyle matrix.

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