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The board shrinks the number of zones where wakesurfing is allowed from five to two

PMG PHOTO: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - The Oregon State Marine Board finalized new rules for the Newberg Pool last week.

The Oregon State Marine Board approved new rules for the Newberg Pool portion of the Willamette River, which is roughly from Oregon City/West Linn's Willamette Falls to Newberg, during a meeting Wednesday, May 13.

The new rules reduce the number of zones where wakesurfing is allowed from five to two and stipulate that all other watersports are not allowed in the wakesurfing zones, which span three miles in total. The rules will go into effect July 1.

Through this process, the board wanted to keep the wakesurfing zones, which were approved in 2019, relatively intact but still tweak them a bit to respond to concerns from riverfront property owners who complained of congestion near their docks last summer. The two wakesurfing zones are in areas (below the Highway 219 Bridge and 1.5 miles below Hebb Park in West Linn respectively) without docks, Marine Board Policy and Environmental Program Manager Josh Mulhollem said. Homeowners along river miles 41.4 to 42.4 (Butteville) were especially vociferous in their displeasure about the zones last year and the rule changes will no longer allow wakesurfing along that stretch.

"The board saw some benefits to that zonal approach but also noticed some safety and other concerns in some of those zones," Mulhollem said.

He added: "The areas that were taken away were areas where the board did hear significant feedback from homeowners regarding the impacts that wakesurfing was having on them and their docks."

The board also denied a recent petition that would have implemented a unidirectional rule for wakesurfing and abolished wakesurfing zones, saying a rulemaking process for the Newberg Pool was already ongoing but that the petitioner could resubmit in the future.

During a previous meeting, the board considered tweaking the rule changes in response to a letter from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asking it to more strongly take into account impacts to endangered fish, but the board moved forward with the current proposal anyway. NOAA wrote in the letter that wakesurfing can harm endangered fish like chinook and coho salmon.

"There's been no additional insight or guidance from NOAA," Mulhollem said.

Willamette Riverkeeper also filed a notice of intent to sue the Marine Board in February if it did not do more to protect endangered salmon. The nonprofit advocacy group would like the Board to outlaw wakesurfing along the river. However, Mulhollem said the board hadn't yet been sued as of Monday.

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