Last week the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition took a complaint to the State Marine Board claiming that jet skis were disrupting research being done in the Salmon River Estuary, just north of Lincoln City. And for that reason jet skis should be banned on the estuary. Oregon Shores asked the Marine Board to conduct a public hearing on the issue alleging that violations of speed limits in the estuary create heavy wakes, accelerates soil erosion and is disruptive to various fish populations found in the federally designated Cascade Head Scenic Research Area.
All that Oregon Shores was seeking was for the board to schedule a hearing so that all interested parties, including the forest service and a number of other regulatory agencies, could weigh in.
But Marine Board staff stated that they didn’t believe there is a problem with jet skis. They cited the fact that jet skis are quieter than they used to be, that there have been no documented complaints about jet skis, no citations for violating speed limits on the estuary have been issued, and that it unfairly singles out one form of water craft over others. Staff also pointed to a boating survey of the estuary conducted three years ago that showed there were no significant problems with jet skis. However, staff also revealed that a marine board policy analyst noted that in October of 2011, “a surveillance camera caught a jet skier, during a two hour period, traveling back and forth across the estuary as fast or faster than other motorboat traffic.”
The Marine Board went along with the staff recommendation to deny Oregon Shores’ request for a hearing on the issue.
Oregon Shores Executive Director Phillip Johnson said that all they were asking for was a hearing to consider all the information necessary to clearly describe the problem and to allow other agencies, including the Forest Service, which is conducting research in the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area, to bring information to the discussion. Johnson says the normal procedure with the Marine Board is to hear a request to deal with an issue, and if it has credible grounds, to schedule a hearing at a later date in order to give all concerned individuals, affected groups and agencies the opportunity to present their case. “We were shut out,” Johnson said. “They put us and other agencies in a Catch-22 that bans us from even presenting evidence for, what we believe, is a very credible request that jet skis be banned from the estuary. If we can’t appear before them, how can we address the issue?”
Johnson said he will be conferring with other individuals, natural resource agencies and other interested groups in re-petitioning the Marine Board to hear their views on the issue.
No one at the State Marine Board was available for comment.