State Marine Board turns down local requests for further motorized boat restrictions on the upper reaches of the Siletz River
A lot of drift fishers, watershed conservationists and tribal fish managers were pretty disappointed with the State Marine Board’s decision this week to make no changes on the Siletz River above the Morgan’s Park Boat Ramp when it come to motorized boats. Certainly the board kept jet boats behind that line but other motorized boats are still allowed into the upper reaches of the river which locals claim is causing conflicts between drifters, bank fishers and those concerned about the river’s fishery.
The reason locals aren’t happy is that although they’re not jet boats, higher powered craft still create quite a wake and under full power cause their bows to rise and fall on the river surface, which sends a compression wave straight down and out across the riverbed – and that disturbs spawning fish eggs which are very fragile during their early maturation. They contend those wave compressions actually destroy eggs which means ultimately fewer fish for everyone.
The marine board explained its decision by noting that if there were conflicts between drifters, bank fishers and power boaters, where is the evidence? Where are the police reports? There were none submitted. As for the wave action on the riverbed disturbing eggs, no one came forth with any demonstration that the board could make in its findings to render a different decision. So again, lack of evidence. However, the board can always be re-approached for a rule change later after evidence is gathered via police reports on conflicts and a formal presentation on boat wakes and wave pressure on the river bottoms where fish eggs are lying in the gravels.
The debate appears far from over.
However, on a happier note, the Marine Board approved spending over a half million dollars on boat access improvements to Morgan’s Park and Ojalla Park. The board approved a nearly $130,000 upgrade to Morgan’s Park launch site, replacing a deteriorating asphalt ramp with a new and wider concrete ramp. Morgan’s Park toilet facilities will also be upgraded.
At Ojalla Park the Marine Board approved a nearly $400,000 upgrade to the boat launch facilities which are now not much more than a muddy rut. The site will get an asphalt ramp down to the water, along with construction of new parking lot for boats and vehicles – 16 vehicle and trailer spaces and six single vehicle spaces. One sticky wicket on this particular project is that if the Marine Board is eventually convinced to remove higher powered prop boats above Morgan’s Park, the usage at Ojalla would certainly take a nose dive. ODFW staff said if that was to happen, they would not recommend the improvements to the Ojalla Park facility.