The Oregon State Marine Board has approved new restrictions on motorized watersports in a crowded section of the Willamette River in Portland.
The new rules, passed by a 3-2 vote on Wednesday, create a 3.9-mile seasonal pass-through zone from the Hawthorne Bridge upstream to the Waverly Marina.
From May through September, all boats may pass through the zone without slowing down, but they will not be allowed to tow water skiers, wake surfers or other devices. Personal watercraft such as jet skis and wave runners will only be allowed to pass directly through the area.
From the Waverly Marina upstream to Willamette Falls, the board approved new buffer zones around docks and boathouses where no wakes, water skiing or towed motorsports will be allowed.
Wake surfing, where a boat creates a wave for a person to ride, will be prohibited altogether in that stretch of the river.
Matt Radich, who manages the Portland-area boat dealership Active Water Sports, said the rules deal a crushing blow to his business and to people who enjoy motorized water sports on the river.
“We have hundreds of homeowners in that section of river who bought homes and boats so they could do things like that on the river,” he said. “That’s a big group of people who just had this access taken away. It’s very unfortunate.”
River users have been sparring for the last 15 months over how the state should manage conflicts between boats that create wakes and people who prefer calmer waters such as houseboat owners and paddlers. Groups including the Calm Water Coalition and Willamette Riverkeeper have argued the wakes create safety hazards for paddlers, damage property and cause environmental harm.
Travis Williams said the board had several options of rules to choose from, and in the end, it voted for the most restrictive rules.
“It was a bold move by the Marine Board,” he said. “I applaud what they did, and we’ve been very critical of them in the past for not taking sufficient action on this. I think this surprised quite a few people.”
The state will develop an implementation plan with marine law enforcement that includes adding signage at river access points.