On October 22nd the Oregon Marine Board voted 4 to 1 to denied a petition to prohibit personal watercraft (PWC) operation on the Salmon River in Lincoln County. The Marine Board cited the overwhelming public support for the current rules coupled with the results of their investigation in to the petitions complaints as the reason for the decision to take no future action.
The Oregon State Marine Board received a petition in August to amend the personal watercraft rules, and adopt a local restriction in the Salmon River Estuary to prohibit personal watercraft use. The Marine Board defines personal watercraft as a motorboat less than 16 feet, powered by a water jet pump, generally operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on, rather than in sitting inside.
The Marine Board held a hearing in September and listened to the comments of a packed Community Center meeting room with approximately 74 in attendance. As reported by the Newsguard, “the majority of the crowd strongly opposed the petition while a handful were in favor.”
The comments in support of the petition cited safety concerns because of the small size of the waterway, claims that PWCs violate the existing operating rules (proximity to swimmers and non-motorized), complaints about the loud noise that PWC engines make, and general comments that the noise and speed of PWCs conflict with the purpose of the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area.
The comments in opposition to the petition generally citied the lack of a conflict between PWCs and other boats, a desire to keep the waterway open to all boats/users and the contention that PWCs have no more impact on the environment than any other boat. Additionally, opponents to the petition raised concerns that the reasoning behind the petition could lead to a prohibition on all motorboats.
Several PWC operators submitted comments in which they said they used the Knight Park boat ramp and Salmon River only for the purpose of accessing the ocean (less than 1 mile from boat ramp to mouth). The American Watercraft Association commented that the petition unfairly targeted PWCs when some of the arguments of the petition could apply to all motorized watercraft, and that non-motorized watercraft are not required to take safety education courses, whereas PWC operators are required to have a boater education card.
Many of the petitioners’ written complaints describe alleged violations of proximity and speed by PWC boaters. According to the Marine Board incidences of this nature may occur, however law enforcement patrols on the Salmon River have significantly increased in the past two years and this type of activity is not documented by cited violations.