Officials discuss safety at Bass Lake

Officials are looking to step up Bass Lake safety efforts after a string of accidents resulted in two teenage deaths as well as serious injuries from June 27 to July 3. Proposed changes in safety policies were discussed during a special meeting Tuesday at the Bass Lake Homeowners Association office, attended by government and business leaders.

Nearly everyone in attendance said despite recent incidents, the lake is safely patrolled by multiple sheriff’s deputies, and has stringent rules on how to safely rent equipment like jet skis. Before this year, Bass Lake had no accident-related deaths since July 4, 2006, when a Coarsegold resident drowned in Willow Cove.

Also, with more than 15,000 boats registered at the lake over a span of the last five years, only five collisions were reported.

Despite that, leaders such as Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, Sheriff Jay Varney, Bass Lake Homeowners Association President Marc Sobel, Bass Lake Chamber of Commerce President Leslie Cox, and those from businesses like Pacific Gas & Electric, which effectively owns the lake, noted any ideas to improve safety were welcome.

At front of proposed potential changes during the almost two-hour roundtable, held at the Bass Lake Homeowners Association office, were placement of additional buoys and signs, a mandatory safety video, an annual public safety day, updates to rules on moored boats or other craft, and stronger efforts to make people aware, and understand, the laws designed to help keep them safe.

Some of those ideas are already underway, officials said. A safety video is being created to instruct watercraft renters on the importance of staying safe in buoyed zones, as well as the lake’s other laws. The reservoir’s signs are being updated to inform guests fires as well as vehicles are prohibited on the lake shore, safety brochures are being passed out, and area businesses as a whole have increased awareness through posted signs or other measures.

“There’s not one specific thing we can pull from all of this that’s going to fix everything,” said Varney, who added though the lake’s surface is smaller than previous years, it’s “more than capable” of handling 1,140 registered boats after approximately 2,500 last year. “But we welcome all ideas ... for some reason, these catastrophic events all happened this year. It’s time to do all we can to make this the safest lake we can.”

Details on boating information:

A similar safety meeting is scheduled for Sept. 23 at the Bass Lake Rangers Office in North Fork.

On June 27, a 13-year-old Fresno boy was killed and his 16-year-old aunt was seriously injured when their intertube was struck by a waverunner (jet ski), driven by a San Jose man in his 50s. Charges could be filed, after the full sheriff office report is reviewed by District Attorney David Linn. The girl was later released from the hospital.

July 1, a 14-year-old boy from Los Gatos died when authorities say he struck a moored pontoon boat while riding a jet ski around 11 p.m.

Then, July 3, an unnamed woman in her mid-20’s, fell from the front of a boat and was struck by its propeller, which caused severe injuries. She has been released from the hospital.