State marine officials recommend the sinking of a proposal to ban jet-powered boats, including an excursion-boat business, from 24 miles of the upper Rogue River.
Oregon State Marine Board staff recommend that the five-member board not accept a petition from the Rogue FlyFishers Association and an upper Rogue landowner to ban jet boats upstream of TouVelle State Park when the board meets Thursday in Salem.
Unveiled today, the staff report instead recommends the different river users and Rogue Jet Boat Adventures owners Taylor and Emily Grimes rely instead on education, signing, voluntary restrictions and perhaps a greater law enforcement presence to ease tensions on that stretch of river.
The Marine Board received more than 200 responses during an open public comment period last month, with the vast majority arguing that Grimes' running of his 18-person tour boat and a handful of others who navigate sections of the upper Rogue create a safety hazard to rafters, driftboaters and wading anglers.
The staff report notes that despite these assertions, "there are no documented accidents or boating citations involving the tour boat at this time."
The Marine Board denied a nearly identical petition in the early 1990s and a 1987 report recommended keeping jet boats on the upper Rogue as the Marine Board was implementing jet boat bans elsewhere in Oregon, according to the Marine Board.
If the petition is quelled as expected, it would be an affirmation that the upper Rogue is a multi-use river over speculation over safety, Emily Grimes said.
"This whole petition was pretty asinine," Emily Grimes said. "They were preying on people's emotions of 'what if something happens.' We have a flawless record."
Greg Layton, who lives along the upper Rogue near Rattlesnake Rapid and is a co-petitioner, said jet boats powering downstream and around sometimes blind turns is a very real safety issue for other river users, especially less-seasoned rafters and kayakers.
"It's not like an elite takeover of the river," Layton said. "It's about safety and what people perceive as an incompatible use with other uses on the river.
"If we end up with another operator or two, it would be even a greater concern," Layton said.
Layton said he has no qualms with a handful of fishing guides who motor upstream from TouVelle State Park and fish outside his house.
But Layton takes issue with Grimes' larger and louder boat that he sees as disturbing the tranquility of riverside life.
Layton equates Grimes' operation to "driving fast past your house eight times a day with a bad muffler and talking on a loudspeaker."
Grimes said she believes other river users are projecting any negative interactions with jet boats onto their excursion boat operation, which opens May 1 and will run through Sept. 10 this year.
The Marine Board has a history of not relying on restrictions to solve user-conflicts and recently denied a petition to ban outboard motors on a stretch of the Chetco River where boat and bank anglers clash at times.
Typically the Marine Board looks to demonstrative safety issues before restricting one user over another.
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.