Bill to limit wake sports on upper Willamette River returns
A bill designed to regulate wake boats on the Newberg Pool portion of the Willamette River is back on the table for the February short session.
Proposed by Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Canby, the bill — which failed after being introduced in both chambers of the Oregon Legislature in 2021 — would mandate that wakeboarders with boats larger than 5,000 pounds not be allowed to obtain a water sports endorsement, which is required to perform those activities in the section of the river roughly from West Linn to Newberg, and that wake surfing (where you let go of the rope attached to the boat and ride out the wave) and wake-enhancement devices would be outlawed entirely.
Kennemer and others want to see limits to these sports as a way to protect natural habitats and limit the erosion of riverbanks, along with protecting waterfront property from damage and reducing overcrowding of waterways.
"I fear that these big boats are literally killing the upper Willamette River," Kennemer told Pamplin Media Group in 2021.
The sponsors of Senate Bill 1589 include Republicans like Kennemer and Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, as well as Democrats like Sen. Deb Patterson, D-Salem, and Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville. The session begins Feb. 1.
The bill also says that the Oregon State Marine Board "may" conduct a study on increasing or decreasing the maximum weight.
The 2021 iteration of the bill passed the state Senate and the House rules committee but was not brought to the House floor for a vote. The boating community strongly opposed the bill, saying that it would have a negative effect on the industry and that wake sports are unfairly maligned for issues on the river.
"This bill will eliminate waterway access for hundreds of Oregon families and unfairly cripple local small businesses. The 5,000-pound weight limit is egregiously low and there is no peer-reviewed, site-specific research to indicate it will have any positive impact on riverbank health," Active Water Sports President Matt Radich said in a statement in 2021.
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