A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Making waves: New river law nears passage

Written May 20th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

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These little wavelets on the Willamette, left by a passing boat near Bowman Park on Monday, are nothing compared to the big wakes caused by some powerboats lower on the river. Now, a bill trying to prevent big waves from damaging the banks in the Willamette River Greenway is likely to become law.

House Bill 2351 authorizes the State Marine Board to adopt special regulations for boats on the river within the greenway. The bill was prompted by concerns that on the lower Willamette, from Newberg north, the growing sports of wake surfing and wake boarding were making too many powerful waves. And this had the potential of undermining the banks and causing more erosion than normal.

The Oregon House passed the bill on April 8. The vote was 50-10. Among the opponents was Albany’s Shelly Boshart Davis. A number of people with boats or in the boating business, including a couple from Albany, had testified against the measure on the grounds that it would lead to more needless and bothersome regulation.

In the Senate, all five members of Environment and Natural Resource Committee, including the two Republicans, endorsed the measure on May 14. The full Senate is set to vote on Tuesday (May 21).

The bill says that on the river within the greenway, the Marine Board may set speed limits and make other boating rules to protect the shoreline, public and private property, fish and wildlife habitat, and vegetation.

Tugboats and other working vessels are exempted. Remember we’re talking about the lower river here. In the mid-valley, tugboats haven’t been seen for half a century or more.

Excessive wave action has not been reported as a particular problem on the river from Corvallis through Albany to Buena Vista. In a canoe, though, you occasionally get jostled about by power boats as they pass.

But if the likes of various wake- or wave-riding sports ever catch on around here and start doing damage to the banks, this new law might come in handy in getting the Marine Board to act. (hh)

Postscript: HB 2351 passed the Senate on May 22 by a vote of 21-6.

Nearby Bowman Park on Monday, a power boat heads downriver near the far bank.

7 responses to “Making waves: New river law nears passage”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    We see that Boshart Davis is once again on the wrong side of the issue.
    Boshart Davis reflects those who voted for her. Since she won handily, it seems her rise to power is indicative of the people who live here, oftentimes on the wrong side of their own self interest. Based on Boshart Davis vote, one assumes Albany residents are in favor of eroding the shoreline just so that millennials can go wake boarding. Are the people of Albany really THAT shallow?

    • ean says:

      I’m confused, I thought millennials were too poor from not working hard enough to afford $60k+ boats?

  2. Jeff Senders says:

    I float the Willamette from Corvallis to my house at Half Moon Bend on my surfboard several times during the summer months. The biggest wakes I’ve encountered are caused by the Benton County Marine Patrol. In an emergency, do they have to slow down too, or are they supposed to ticket themselves?

  3. Curt Miller says:

    Nobody runs a wakeboard boat from Corvallis to Salem.
    It’s to shallow.

  4. Bud Jones says:

    Show me the proof….only thing i see is “opinions” …print all the research done on ” all” of the area in question…then let the responsible people who are plegged with paying for the future cost have the final say…that would be the voter of this state…..


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