The following article appeared in the Idaho Mountain Express for the
week of May 28 - June 3, 2003. View the original article online at
Blaine County Institutes Jet Ski Ban
Alturas, Pettit lakes watercraft use restricted
By Matt Furber, Express Staff Writer
The Blaine County Board of Commissioners
voted to approve a ban of personal watercraft use on Alturas and Pettit
lakes in the Sawtooth Valley at the conclusion last week of its second
public hearing on the contentious issue.
The ban was formally adopted
Tuesday morning at a regular commissionerís meeting.
The first vote on the
decision came immediately after the final public hearing May 21 on the
proposed "Jet Ski" ban at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey. Residents
had been asked to limit comments to three minutes.
The ban will go into effect
as soon as the ordinance is published in local newspapers probably next
week, said Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael.
The all-out ban will be
easier to enforce than a ban limiting use to certain times of day, said
Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling. "The impact on law enforcement is that
it is easier to say no. The likelihood of (people) not going is greater."
According to commission
reports, Jet Skis on the lakes generated concerns about safety and adverse
impacts to people and wildlife.
A clause to review the ban in
September 2004 was entered into the ordinance to get feedback about the
impact of the ban after the first two seasons. County commissioner Mary
Ann Mix also recommended that scientific data that accompanied the
commissionís final decision, particularly in regards to potential
degradation to fish and wildlife, be submitted in the ordinances.
At the hearing, citizens
argued both sides of the issue. One ban detractor said that the technology
would improve over time and that there were not really that many Jet Skis
being operated in the Sawtooth Valley. Others called the ban
discriminatory and unjust. A supporter said that the ban was an
opportunity to stop a problem before it becomes a bigger issue.
For many residents the issue
came down to noise.
"When the lake gets calm and
peaceful . . . they go out," Blaine County resident Mitch Brody said.
"Blaine County is
pro-active," said Michael. "Before there is a conflict, we respond."
As complaints about Jet Skis
increased leading up to the hearings, supporters of the industry did not
materialize as expected.
Michael said several people
who opposed the ban had called her to say there would be organized vocal
opposition at the hearings, but no organized opposition materialized.
Some residents protested that
the ban was an extreme measure and that just because the commission has
the power to pass the measure doesnít mean it should.
The hearing was civil and
both sides presented their views politely within the three-minute time
Blaine County now plans to
approach Custer County, about banning Jet Skis on Redfish and Stanley
lakes. Although the county did at one time receive a petition for a Jet
Ski ban that it never acted on, last summer the Custer County Commission
voted unanimously to restrict all motorized watercraft use on Stanley Lake
between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m.
"Custer County needs to hear
from their residents before taking action," said Michael.
Jet Skis are involved in 55
percent of all collisions between vessels occurring on U.S. waters,
according to American Canoe Association research. They comprise less than
10 percent of all vessels. Studies by the U.S Coast Guard affirm this