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Marine board committee shows slight preference for two zones at edges of river section

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Oregon State Marine Board is in the process of reevaluating rules for the Newberg Pool section of the Willamette River. During the second Oregon State Marine Board Rules Advisory Committee meeting Friday, Jan. 2 — where a group of citizens voiced opinions about potential alterations to the rules that govern the Newberg Pool portion of the Willamette River (roughly from Newberg to West Linn) — the same fissures that emerged in the first meeting were present in the second.

A little over half the committee wanted wakesurfing (not wakeboarding) banned from the Newberg Pool. The other contingent preferred small tweaks but a general consistency with rules that were put in place in 2019, including zones where wakesurfing is and isn't allowed and distance-from-shore requirements for wakesurfers and wakeboarders.

But one new idea brought up by board staff received approval from members of both sides.

Though a consensus didn't form, most of the committee was in favor of establishing two zones: one where only wakesurfing is allowed (and other activities like paddling are not) while banning wakesurfing on the vast majority of the river. The proposed zones would be located near mile 30 and 50 respectively and would total three miles. The idea was designed to lessen clashes between users and improve safety while still providing wakesurfers a place to go.

Matt Radich, the president of Active Water Sports and a committee member, liked the idea, in part because he thought it would make it easier for wakesurfers to stay in the middle portion of the river — thus reducing perceived damage to docks and shorelines. However, he thought the idea would be improved if there were one more zone for those who live in the middle of the Newberg Pool.

"You're going to have hugely congested ends, which is going to have safety issues and people in the middle of the river who have nowhere to go," he said.

Riverfront homeowners and committee members Evelyn Galloni and Joanne Criscione both maintained a preference for an outright wakesurfing ban but thought this option could be a satisfactory compromise.

"I believe that these large wakes are causing damage to the shoreline. I still am concerned about it, but I also agree that there has to maybe be a compromise," Galloni said.

On the other hand, Nate Thompson, a Clackamas County Sheriff's Office sergeant with experience patrolling the river, said the limited space for wakesurfing could cause both congestion and law-breaking.

"Congestion is going to be so overwhelming people are not going to stay in those zones," he said.

The other new idea the committee considered, allowing just one wakesurfing zone below Hebb Park and creating a 3,500-pound limit for all towed water sports activities in the areas that don't allow wakesurfing, elicited more divergent opinions.

"I'm vehemently against this because it cuts out such a huge portion of the users, homeowners, people who moor their boats. For the most part, you're saying no towed water sports in this section of the river," Radich said.

Travis Williams, the executive director of Willamette Riverkeeper, suggested banning wakesurfing outright would be preferable and that the river is too narrow and ecologically precious to allow the sport.

"There are places where wakesurfing makes sense. I just don't think this area is one of them," he said.

While Criscione thought the recently added 10,000-pound weight limit for towed water sports was too lenient, Radich said the 3,500 limit would be too restrictive. And Criscione said that the board should more closely examine what the allowable weight limit for towed water sports should be.

"Is it (3,500 pounds) the right number? I don't know, but I like the idea," she said.

In the previous meeting in December, the committee considered ideas such as allowing wakesurfers to perform the sport only in one direction, removing certain zones that currently allow wakesurfing, changing boundaries from mile markers to physical landmarks, disallowing wakesurfing altogether and further limiting wakeboarding. At that meeting, the committee generally agreed that physical landmarks would be preferable and a zone in Butteville hit hard by wakesurfing last summer should no longer allow wakesurfing. However, the two sides disagreed on other points.

The committee was tasked with simply providing input rather than a recommendation to the board. The board will consider the opinions presented and may decide potential rule changes during a meeting at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 22 at the Marine Board's headquarters in

Salem.


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