Senate passes wake sports bill almost unanimously
By a near unanimous vote of 22-1, the Oregon Senate passed a bill that would ban wake surfing and further limit activities like wakeboarding and waterskiing on the Newberg Pool portion of the Willamette River Thursday, Feb. 16.
If enacted, the bill essentially would require that wakeboarding, waterskiing and water-tubing boats weigh less than 5,000 pounds. It also would ban wake surfing entirely, expand the Newberg Pool zone, which is roughly from Newberg to West Linn, so that it runs to the mouth of the Yamhill River, and leave open the possibility that the Oregon State Marine Board could conduct a study to potentially change the weight limit.
Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer and Wilsonville, provided the only "no" vote.
The Oregon House of Representatives now will need to approve the bill for it to go to the governor's desk for final signature.
During a public hearing Feb. 9, proponents including Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Canby, said they believed the section of the river is too narrow to allow these activities to take place unimpeded and viewed them as the culprit of receding shorelines and diminishing fish populations.
Meanwhile, representatives of the boating industry and the boating community have felt that the sports are unfairly maligned and that further regulating that section would harm industry and hamper an activity they enjoy.
Before the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment voted to move the bill to the Senate floor, Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, said he was convinced that there were too many wake boats pervading the 3-mile stretch of the Newberg Pool that allows wake surfing. He added that the regulations would be isolated to this section of the river and would not come to other sections or waterways.
"In my mind this is a one and done," he said in a Monday, Feb 14, work session.
Oregon Sen. Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton, said during the meeting she felt the main point of the bill was to limit wake surfing.
"If you read the bill, other water sports are still permissible in certain circumstances. It's important to note we're really trying to limit wake surfing in this part of the river that's not very wide," she said.
A similar version of the bill also passed through the Senate in the 2021 legislative session, but was not brought to the House floor for a vote.
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