For over 60 years I've lived on the Willamette River, within three miles of Meldrum Bar. It's the best place in the world to live and, until recently, the best place to be a boater.
In the past few years, Oregon's waterways have been inundated with regulations and ordinances. Our lakes and rivers are some of the most over-regulated in the country. Now there's another ordinance up for consideration. An egregious overreach that punishes all personal watercraft users for the actions of one bad actor.
A small group of waterfront homeowners are trying to pass a new "narrative standard" ordinance because they want to be able to call the police if they think a boat engine or music might be too loud.
If adopted, an Oregon boater could receive a citation if an officer subjectively thinks their music or engine is too loud, even if it's within the legal decibel limit. Yes, you read that correctly.
Our first responders have enough on their plates. The last thing they need is a subjective noise rule to enforce. Trying to measure noise from the shoreline on a busy day on the river is impossible. How will you tell the quiet from the loud?
As a homeowner and lifelong resident along the river, hearing and seeing personal watercraft users is something that has always come with the territory. The boating season in Oregon is only four short months. In that time, the recreational boating community brings a great deal of value to our state. It's something we should celebrate, support and enjoy.
This all started because of one nuisance jet skier. Should every boater in Oregon be punished because of one person? The new 75-decibel limit is a sensible and fair limit. The focus should remain on enforcing current laws not adding a law or ordinance for every little thing that annoys us on the river. If things continue at this rate, I worry that one day boaters won't be able to enjoy the river at all.
As a former member of the Lower Willamette River rulemaking committee, I am familiar with the work of the Oregon State Marine Board. I spent my time advocating for all watercraft users to share space respectfully. We need to remember that Willamette River belongs to all of us, and we must find a way to follow the rules that are already in place. I urge the Oregon State Marine Board to vote down the "narrative standard" at their July 28 board meeting.
Palmer Kellum is an Oak Grove resident.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.